Sunday/ ‘a doleful future’ .. but also optimism

An article in the New York Times by Donald G. McNeil Jr. paints a bleak picture, ‘a doleful future’, for the year or two ahead, for life in the times of the SARS-CoV-2 (corona) virus.

Yes, we have reached the peak of this first outbreak in New York City, and several other States, but right now we should test at least three times more people daily, to assess if a community is safe enough for people to come out of their homes. There are still not enough test kits available. (Trump and Pence seem to lie about this every day at the press briefings).

The experts agree that 12 to 18 months for a vaccine is optimistic. The ‘world record’ time for developing a vaccine, was for the one for mumps (4 years, start to finish in 1967). Check out the struggle for the polio vaccine before the success of Dr. Jonas Salk in 1955.

Once we have a vaccine, we will need 300 million doses — and 600 million if two shots are needed. We will probably have to rely on China to help manufacture those!

In the interim, it will be impossible to keep paying the economic cost of keeping people at home. There will be fits and starts, as the lockdowns get lifted, and reinstituted if too many people fall ill in certain communities. People that have become immune, may get special privileges (to work, to travel), and people that are not immune, may be discriminated against.

The article does end with an optimistic note:
‘In the periods after both wars, Dr. Mulder* noted, society and incomes became more equal. Funds created for veterans’ and widows’ pensions led to social safety nets, measures like the G.I. Bill and V.A. home loans were adopted, unions grew stronger, and tax benefits for the wealthy withered.

If a vaccine saves lives, many Americans may become less suspicious of conventional medicine and more accepting of science in general — including climate change, experts said.

The blue skies that have shone above American cities during this lockdown era could even become permanent’.

*Nicholas Mulder, an economic historian at Cornell University.

This looks like a scene from a dystopian future, a movie, but no, it’s real: a handful of commuters on the Staten Island Ferry. Passenger counts on the New York City subway is down by 93%. [Picture: Misha Friedman for The New York Times]

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