2022 was bad, but it could have been worse. This essay is part of a end of year series looking at the silver linings.
We enter 2022 in a state of great anxiety about what Covid-19 would do next. While the vaccines offered vital relief, it was unclear whether they would hold up against the new variants and whether we would not return to mass lockdowns soon.
Although none of the worst case scenarios happened last year, what happened was a disaster and an ongoing global tragedy.
But the novel coronavirus did not fulfill our worst nightmares: no doomsday variant emerged to render our vaccines useless, hospitals and morgues were not completely overwhelmed, the world’s economies did not collapse under the stress of a pandemic. spiral.
While four years of crisis have left many people in a state of numb indifference, it is important to remember why the Covid-19 story in 2022 was better than it could have been.
It was made better because of the unwavering dedication of the workforce of federal, state and local public health agencies: officials, doctors, staff and volunteers, from the most senior leaders on down. In public and behind the scenes, they did the vital work of preventing infection and caring for the sick. They promoted and delivered vaccines, developed prevention strategies, monitored data, and did a million other unannounced things to help weave a stronger public health safety net. We owe a great debt to them.
it was better because normal people did their part. While many scoffed or shrugged at the danger of infection, the burden of prevention fell on everyone else: those vaccinated, those wearing masks, home fitting rooms, those avoiding indoor crowds, grandparents protectors: all of us who took science seriously and avoided the politics of ignorance and stupidity.
Underlying these two reasons for the cautiously hopeful 2022 Covid-19 news, knowing that any news, good or tragic, is always relative: the wisdom of medical researchers and public health professionals, and good sense and common sense. intelligent public behaviour.
We will need all of these things to get through to 2023. Although none of the worst-case scenarios happened last year, what happened was continued global disaster and tragedy, especially in the US. The number of illnesses and deaths from Covid was, and still is, intolerably high.
We are entering the new year already immersed in a winter wave of illness: a “triple epidemic” of Covid, flu and the respiratory virus called RSV. Cities are considering the return of mask mandates. A recent report has shown that the covid death rate it was higher in Republican-leaning counties, which should be a warning to the party most associated with hostility to masks and vaccines. Meanwhile, top health officials warn that persistent misinformation about vaccines remains a serious threat to public health.
There has been a shift in news coverage of the pandemic (which President Joe Biden recklessly declared to be over in September) and in people’s attitudes towards the virus, as much of this country has begun to move on from the pandemic. But the danger has not disappeared. Instead, millions of Americans are actively choosing to leave behind entire segments of our population: the immunocompromised, the chronically ill, infants and children too young to be vaccinated, and the elderly, for whom the virus remains a serious threat.
It is easy to say that the pandemic could have been worse and ended. But we can’t let our guard down now, not if we still want to prevent people from getting sick and dying needlessly. Particularly in vulnerable communities where there is a lack of access to vaccines, therapies and good informationThere is much work to be done.
The good news is that we have what it takes to make a difference. We have more therapies now. We have vaccines that still work amazingly well at keeping you out of the hospital and graveyard. We have reinforcements that would greatly increase the safety net if more people dared to take them. And this common-sense principle remains true: when you enact and uphold good policies, good things happen. The opposite is equally true: when you make fun of good policies, things can get worse.
We were lucky that 2022 turned out better than expected. The new strains of virus were much more contagious but not much more deadly. Ramshackle public health systems more or less withstood the strain. Huge public investments in medical and social support, from free home test kits to emergency funds to prevent foreclosures and evictions, made all the difference. But luck is not a long-term prevention strategy and we need continued investment.
However, money to fight the pandemic is running out and it is unlikely in the next Congress. In the last two weeks, Covid deaths increase 63%, a possible harbinger of things to come in 2023. We would all be in a better place next year if the people who decided to stop worrying about Covid started worrying again, or we can choose to keep pressing our luck and keep our fingers crossed.