In the United States, new confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been reported in a wide range of areas. This could indicate a fifth wave or related deaths. As millions gather in celebration of Thanksgiving, the timing seems particularly bad. The holidays are the most vulnerable to the insurgent virus.
If it continues for more than seven days, an abrupt flatlining or precipitous drop in cases is not good news. Five of the seven previous days have seen the weekly rolling average number of new cases rise by more than one day. This is a fairly robust indicator of daily fluctuations in reporting.
This trademark flattening of the curve after an extended decline in the pandemic’s perpetual two-month cycle typically foretells a spike. The unwelcome reversal comes just 16 days after cases dipped below the level we saw at this time last year, when the pandemic’s devastating third wave was already well on its way. Deaths, meanwhile—which typically lag about two weeks behind cases—remain slightly above their 2020 year-over-year counterparts.
The strongest hope that this could be a false alarm—and as always, I do hope I’m wrong—is that the current clip could be the last gasp of the fourth wave, not the introduction of the next one. Over the summer, cases blossomed across both the South and Upper Northwest, often leading to infections and mortalities that met or outstripped January’s catastrophic figures. Every state that’s currently experiencing rising cases, meanwhile, is still posting figures below the record levels last winter—or, in the case of New Hampshire and Vermont, reached a new all-time high in the past week. The COVID-19 Belt, which stretches from Maine through Minnesota all the to Arizona, is still remarkably undulating. Regions that had record-setting figures in August/September are still rather dormant.
2021 wasn’t supposed to look like this. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccination was first introduced in the United States on December 14. It promised an end to the feeling of eternal torpor. This hope existed before the rise of Delta, but was also based on two assumptions. One, that the supermajority would be vaccinated immediately, and the other, that the majority of us could survive a closed existence for long enough to allow that to occur.
The fast mutation of the novel virus could not have been prevented, and vaccine hesitancy (and “meh-sitance”) was arguably inevitable. Concerning the abrupt retreat and forward movement of the reopening, it is likely that history will disapprove the May 13 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention directive that allowed fully-vaccinated people to wear masks in many situations.
The two-month period in the United States and around the globe will end so that those books are not possible to be completed. This doesn’t mean total hermitage at a time when the economy is desperately in need of participation. It does mean that safety protocols will need to revert to those utilized in the earlier days of the pandemic—for as long as the data are anywhere nearly as bad as or worse than they were a year ago.