In an August 5 feature in Nature magazine, Boston-based science writer Megan Scudellari synthesizes what is going on right now in the world of epidemiological predictive modeling, referencing up-to-the-moment Covid models produced at centers in Hong Kong, South Africa, Harvard, London, Brazil and more.
There is some fairly dire dystopian augury in the roundup, especially regarding the upcoming winter in cold-weather climates, and every other winter thereafter. The death total predicted for a year from now is a number I don’t much feel like repeating, and the news on the vaccine and general immunity, while mixed, comes up well short of the make-it-go-away magic bullet we all like to imagine in the pipeline.
Still, what emerges from Scudellari’s broad sampling is a practical vision of what managing in the future might look like. Honestly, it looks kind of doable as long you are not at all attached to everything you knew before.
Maybe we have to go into a form of lockdown protocol every 80 days or so, or as indicated by surveillance data that gets to us well ahead of a spike, assuming our epidemiologists are allowed to do their jobs, which is tragically not a safe assumption. According to some models, it may only take 50 to 60 percent of the population honoring distancing to knock down a flare, and it seems to me that’s about how many of us there are, in the United States at least.
Tracing, testing. We can expect to see vast improvements in those, both technologically and logistically. I like to imagine a day when they can test you at the gate of the stadium with instant results. I like to also imagine a concerted global effort to develop not just a vaccine but also a cure.
Still, it is hard to read anything about this situation without being struck by one plain fact: everything about life is going to change. You don’t need to be Nate Silver to fix the odds of live local music returning to something like normal. And for me, that’s about as deflating as a thought can be.
I watched a circulating YouTube video in which a burly, maskless man with a megaphone and a great deal of verbal energy accosts a group of mask-wearing young lifeguards at a Texas beach. The man rants with supreme authority on the illegality of mask requirements and about how the time for civil disobedience is now. The young lifeguards listen passively, maybe just trying to discern the actual substance of the man’s complaint.
If you, like me, are a fan of impassioned incoherence, I highly recommend the video on that basis alone. It is really not possible to paraphrase what he is saying. And yet it is easy to understand where he is coming from. This is an epidemic of pure cognitive dissonance. The world he knew, the world I knew, isn’t coming back. It makes me feel like yelling gibberish at lifeguards, too. Not sure why.
This will change everything. This will change love.
Read more installments of Village Voices by John Burdick.