‘The last major wave of infection’: Do falling COVID cases signal the end of the U.S. pandemic?
The main reason the variant has sickened so many Americans and evaded at least some vaccine protection is that it’s roughly twice as transmissible as the strain that was spreading in the U.S. a year ago. That’s the bad news. The “good” news (if you can call it that) is that a variant as infectious as Delta effectively crowds out other worrisome variants while rapidly generating a lot of infection-induced immunity in its wake.
Vaccination is a far safer and more effective way to acquire immunity than infection, of course. But if more unvaccinated people get the virus now, fewer of them will be vulnerable over the winter.
….At a certain point, enough Americans will have acquired at least some immunity through either vaccination or infection to slow Delta down — and to make any subsequent infections significantly less dangerous. The pandemic will end; the virus will become endemic.
The question is when. Already, case counts are not falling just across the under-vaccinated South, which drove the summer surge. And they’re not falling just in Alaska or West Virginia, the latest under-vaccinated hot spots. They’re also falling or plateauing in the other, more vaccinated states that recently experienced their own smaller, seemingly premature surges.
Could it be that because Delta spreads so easily, it may have already infected — or is now in the process of infecting — most of the unvaccinated Americans it’s going to infect, regardless of region or season?
Could it be that the bulk of whatever wave might have hit the U.S. this coming winter has basically hit already — and that by the time winter comes, Delta will have fewer and fewer unprotected Americans left to infect?
That’s the hopeful argument Gottlieb and others are making. Soon enough, Americans will know if they’re right.
I’m on record agreeing with everything quoted above, except that I think Gottlieb is wrong about there not being other variants to worry about. I think there will be four more, taking us and pandemic into 2023.
The influence of natural immunity to help end the pandemic is also why I suggested a catagory for natural immunity on vaccination cards.