For some Americans, this Thanksgiving was the first holiday that felt normal in a long time. Being re-united, without Covid restrictions, is something to celebrate.
On the other hand, a new coronavirus variant was just discovered in South Africa. It’s scary enough that travel bans might be imposed. We have all (just about) learned to live with the original strain from Wuhan, but scientists want time to figure out how dangerous and infectious this new strain is. Maybe at this point people are tired of being lectured about risks. No matter how much or little a person sacrificed for Covid-19, they might feel like that storyline has become too boring to deserve any more of our attention. We cannot stop looking out for new variants that might force us to put cherished traditions on hold again. Coronaviruses kill. My advice is to keep following news from Tyler Cowen, Alex Tabarrok, and Emily Oster.
Oster has been consistently reasonable about family and health risks. She argued to open schools and essentially said that you can see grandparents if the risk is small enough (even though the risks are never zero). As I said before, another trustworthy source of information throughout the pandemic has been Tyler and Alex, who put up almost all of their material in real time at Marginal Revolution.
I’ll share something a friend wrote to me today:
Although [his wife’s name]’s chemo treatment continues to show good long-term signs, this morning we discovered that [she] tested positive for COVID. That’s bad news, the good news is that [she] is already getting the antibody treatment and some extra fluids at the hospital as I write this.
“The antibody treatment” did not exist when the first Covid-19 waves swept through New York with such devastating consequences.
If the newest strain turns out to be a serious development, then in many ways we are better prepared to deal with it than we were before. We probably will blow through the red tape on at-home rapid tests faster the next time around (I’m such an optimist!). We already have contact tracing apps that protect privacy. Vaccine scheduling software is already in place. Everyone has masks at home.
The biggest difficulty I foresee is not coming up with scientific solutions but agreeing as a society about which tools to use. Some people might (will) not even believe the new strain is real.
EWED was started right at the moment when Marginal Revolution commentary on Covid seemed the most crucial. So, sometimes I will do little more here than keep up the echo. Do tweets, phone calls, letters, blogs, or talk about Covid around the Thanksgiving table. Don’t give up.
It’s now clear, whether or not the news out of South Africa turns out to be serious, that we are living with a new problem that will last a long time. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
If you ever read much of the New Testament, you’ll see a theme in the letters of Paul to cities he has visited. The brand-new churches were doing well, while he was with them in person. Then time goes by and the community or doctrine starts to fray.
Paul wrote these words to the church in Galatia, more than a year after he had visited them:
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9