Trend: None. Michigan’s outbreak is still out-of-control. But that seems to be unique to Michigan.
I see a lot of news articles today predicting a large and inevitable fourth wave. How anyone could be able to say that, with any confidence, given the current situation, simply eludes me.
If I had to guess, I’d guess the fourth wave is fizzling out. Ultimately, that’s based on just a few, somewhat shaky pieces of information. 1) My arithmetic says that in the race between vaccination and new variants, vaccination ought to win. 2) Ain’t nothing happening in Florida, and that should be the U.S. poster child for the new variants. 3) There’s nothing in the state-level data to suggest that, in general, states with high caseloads of new variants are doing worse than others.
Source for this and other graphs: Calculated from The New York Times. (2021). Coronavirus (Covid-19) Data in the United States. Retrieved 4/6/2021, from https://github.com/nytimes/covid-19-data. The NY Times on-line COVID-19 tracking page may be found at: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/coronavirus-us-cases.html.
Show me a sign
When the data tell you nothing, sometimes the only option is to read the chicken entrails. Look for omens and portents. Ask for a sign.
And I think we’re now in the end phase of the pandemic. I’m not saying that because the data suggest it. Far from it, as noted above. Right now, there’s no trend to speak of. I’m saying that because I saw a sign.
It was, in fact, a big display sign in my local hardware store, sitting above a rack of NIOSH-certified N95 masks. Prominently displayed, as if nobody could PPE-shame them into putting them behind the counter. As if — as if it were now OK for ordinary citizens to wear good masks. And masks were plentiful enough that anybody could have one.
N95 masks were the first thing to disappear around here in the pre-pandemic panic buying (Post #555). They evaporated off the local retail shelves in February 2020. The shelves were wiped clean well before we had even one case of COVID-19 in Virginia. They’ve been impossible to buy locally since. It was mid-December 2020 before I finally began to spot apparently genuine NIOSH-certified N95s on Amazon again (Post #918).
And so, now they’re finally back on the shelves? Now that more than 40% of the U.S. adult population is vaccinated? Now that it’s months after the seasonal peak of COVID-19, when we really could have used them?
As I looked at that vast, pristine display of brand-name NIOSH-certified N95s, I guess it just tickled my sense of irony so much that I took it as an omen. They’re finally back in stock? Great, that must mean the pandemic’s over.
Anyway, I’ve decided that this is the sign I’ll be looking for, signalling the end of the pandemic. You can use medical N95s as dust masks, but the 3M valved ones are better for that, and cheaper. So, given the timing, I’m betting my local hardware store is eventually going to have to put the bulk of these newly-stocked NIOSH N95s on the discount rack. When that happens, I’ll know the pandemic is as over as it’s ever going to get.