When Will Covid End?

Recently, I wrote about what is coming with Covid and what businesses need to do to adapt.

We know how to end Covid. Masks, contact tracing, targeted lockdowns, and curtailing large gatherings prevent spread. Vaccines shut down whole variants.

Like seatbelts and vitamins, all these tools only work if we use them. People will only use them when everyone perceives Covid to be serious enough to act on.

As I write this, the Delta Variant is the dominant variant, with an R0 of close to 5 (every person who gets it infects an average of 5 people) versus original Covid’s R0 of 2. It also infects about 1 in 8 vaccinated people who is exposed, and those people can transmit it will full efficacy.

Other variants are on the horizon which may be just as contagious and more resistant to the vaccine. With the way viruses mutate, it is a matter of when, not if, a variant will appear that evades current vaccines.

When that virus comes, it will move rapidly through populations lulled into a false sense of security. Without a vigorous response, the outbreak will overwhelm hospitals rapidly. Without treatment, Covid is roughly twice as deadly, so we’d see 2% mortality.

Last summer, the city of New York was using refrigerated trailers to store bodies of those killed by Covid, and other areas were preparing mass graves which were fortunately not needed. Doubling the infectivity rate will likely cross the line where we’ll actually see some mass burials of dead. The image of that on the nightly news might convince some people that Covid is serious.

Or it might not, depending on what counternarratives exist.

My personal belief is that people will not be convinced that this is serious enough to require response until we see the variant, which Dr. Fauci is warning us about, which not only has an R0 of 5, but has a mortality rate of 3%-5%, and a correspondingly higher hospitalization rate.

That virus would push us to the point where hospitals would be turning away critical patients with instructions for caretakers on how not to contract the virus and instructions to patients which might include prayer because the medical resources are completely exhausted.

For many people, their idea of a severe pandemic comes from watching The Stand and The Walking Dead. They need to see bodies in the streets and smoke rising from cities.

This more deadly variant would also have the effect that some of the Covid deniers and sources of misinformation will contract the disease and die from it. As opposed to when Trump contracted Covid and bounced back saying, “See guys! No big deal!” a picture of a major Covid denier on a ventilator will do a lot to change people’s minds.

Initial reports suggested that Lambda might be vaccine resistant. Subsequent research seems to be finding that vaccines still offer significant protection, but there’s always another variant coming as long as Covid is allowed to spread.

If Lambda or one of the other variants is enough to get people to take action, then we’ll see intensive response in Q1 of 2022, and mass vaccination in Q2 with a full return to normal in Q3. I think this is wishful thinking.

The more likely timeline is that Delta with rage across America in Q4 ’21 and Q1 ’22, partially controlled by government response, then sometime in 2022 or possibly 2023, we’ll see the more deadly variant. Only then will we see people take this seriously enough to do what needs to be done.

Michael Whitehouse is a business coach, networker, and science fan. He helps businesses creatively adapt, pivot, survive, and thrive in unexpected circumstances. If your business is facing challenges, set up a free call with him so he can help you find some paths to find the best outcome for your business

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