As a new year begins, we want to look back on the first two years of the pandemic in the U.S. — and look ahead to what 2022 may bring. Today’s newsletter will do so with the help of a handful of charts.
Covid-19 was named so because it spread to China in late 2019. In the U.S. doctors first identified a case in Washington State in January 2020. Both the number of cases and deaths rose accordingly.
2021 began with a positive turning point: the intensification of a mass vaccine campaign.
In February, new cases began to drop and by spring, it seemed as though the virus might be in retreat, at least in highly-vaccinated countries. On June 2, President Biden gave a speech looking ahead to “a summer of freedom, a summer of joy.”
In late spring, the Delta variant emerged, which was a much more dire turning point. Although it caused more infections than the earlier variants, the vast majority of these breakthrough infections were mild.
High vaccination rates have protected communities from the worst outcomes.
However, 2021 felt like a year of pandemic purgatory due to the emergence and persistence of Delta. In addition to the direct damage from Covid, the disruptions to daily life — intended to slow the spread of the virus — have brought their own costs.
Many children are falling behind in school and many are suffering mental health problems due to isolation. Americans’ blood pressure has risen, and drug overdoses have soared.
Even people who have avoided the worst of the pandemic’s damage often feel fed up. Omicron, the latest variant of the pandemic, has sent cases soaring at their highest levels yet and raised the possibility that 2022 could be another year in pandemic purgatory.
Evidence is emerging that Omicron is less severe than earlier coronaviruses. This could be because Omicron has higher levels or intrinsic biological reasons. Hospitalizations are lower in South Africa, England, San Francisco, and other parts the U.S. than doctors expected.
Omicron will still cause terrible damage to those who are not vaccinated in the U.S.A and around the world. Many hospitals are at risk of becoming overwhelmed in the coming weeks.
The current surge will recede, but there will be a few silver linings. Omicron is contagious enough to have infected a significant portion of the population, increasing Covid immunity and helping to eradicate the virus. Omicron has also helped Americans to understand the importance booster shots, which further increases immunity.
It is also important to note that the world has two new post-infection therapies, one from Merck (and one from Pfizer) that reduce the risk of death and hospitalization. With Pfizer’s treatment, the reduction is by almost 90 percent, according to early research trials.
All of which suggests that the U.S. could emerge from the Omicron wave significantly closer to the only plausible long-term future for Covid — one in which it becomes an endemic disease and a more normal part of daily life. It will still cause illness or death. A typical flu season can kill more than 30,000 Americans, many of them elderly. For the foreseeable future, battling Covid — through vaccination, treatment and research — will remain important.
However, endemic diseases do not have to be so severe that it becomes a major problem in the lives of people. It doesn’t have to cause the same social isolation and public health problems as Covid over the past two-years. If the U.S. reaches that point in 2022 — as appears likely — the next New Year will feel a lot more satisfying than this one.
More information about the virus:
THE LATEST NEWS
The Biden administration’s child tax credit program, which helped keep millions of children out of poverty during the pandemic, ended.
Stacey Abrams has built a career straddling the line between the Democratic Party’s left and its center.
Other Big Stories
The Nooksack tribe, Washington State, has removed hundreds of people and many face eviction.
Sudan’s prime minister, who was ousted in a military coup but reinstated over a month ago, Yesterday, he resigned.
“I don’t think this is about the cheese.” In grocery stores, on airplanes and other places, customers are melting down.
A Times investigation revealed that prenatal tests that warn about rare disorders are often wrong.
For 2022, adopt New Year’s resolutions that will help your soul, Tish Harrison Warren Writes.
What George Yancy Seven religious scholars, one atheist, and his father shared their knowledge about death.
The classic A Times: The miracle of moving an upright piano in New York City.
Lives Worth Living: Sandra Jaffe and her spouse stopped in New Orleans on the way home from their honeymoon. The music transformed them. Preservation Hall was established by the couple. This club has been celebrating jazz for 60+ years. Jaffe passed away at the age of 83.
ARTS AND IDEA
Making video game history
Hades is the first videogame to win the Hugo Award, a prize for science fiction or fantasy that has traditionally been awarded books, graphic novels, and other written works.
The Coronavirus Pandemic: Key Information
The game, from the developer Supergiant Games, follows the story of Zagreus — son of the game’s eponymous god — as he tries to escape the Underworld. He meets many characters along the way, including gods from Olympus, and fights all kinds of hellish creatures. He uncovers family secrets, and gains insight into why his father made unsavory decisions.
The Hugo Awards’ inclusion of video games, which organizers are considering making permanent, speaks to how far the medium has come. Technology was limited in terms of how much text a game could contain, whether it was the original Super Mario Bros. or The Legend of Zelda. Today, a game’s storytelling can be its primary selling point, whether it’s a high-budget science-fiction epic like the Mass Effect trilogy or an indie game made by a small team like Celeste. — German Lopez, Morning writer
PLAY, WATCH, EAT
What to Cook
These chicken wings are as crispy as their fried counterparts when they come out of the oven.
What to listen to
Times music critics highlighted some great songs — electronic, country, rap, soul and more — that went under the radar in 2021.
What to Read
Sixteen notable books will be out this month, including new works from Hanya Yanagihara (Carl Bernstein) and Hanya Yangagihara (Hanya Yanagihara).
It’s Time to Play
Source: NY Times