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COVID yesterday, today, and tomorrow

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The most fascinating aspect of the COVID pandemic in the USA is the extent to which the unhinged state of the contemporary Republican party came to manifest itself most clearly in the party’s histrionic reaction to even the mildest attempts to contain the pandemic. This very much continues today (see for example Scott’s post on the frankly insane farewell speech of Michigan’s senate Republican leader).

Today it’s become a commonplace to say that COVID is now “over,” — and apparently it is over, not of course in the epidemiological sense, but in the social sense that pandemics “end” when they are no longer an intense focus public concern and attention.

I thought it would be useful to review the official monthly death toll from COVID in the USA since the start of the pandemic. These figures are from the CDC, and are collectively understated by probably around 20%, given the overall increase in the all-cause mortality rate over this time:

2020

March: 7.1K

April: 65.5K

May: 38.3K

June: 18K

July: 31.1K

August: 29.9K

September: 19.2K

October: 24.9K

November: 53.2K

December: 98.2K

2021

January: 105.6K

February: 48.6K

March: 23.2K

April: 18.8K

May: 15K

June: 8K

July: 11.2K

August: 48.8K

September: 63.4K

October: 42.6K

November: 32.3K

December: 45.6K

2022

January: 83.9K

February: 50.1K

March: 15.6K

April: 6.2K

May: 7.6K

June: 9.5K

July: 13.3K

August: 13.9K

September: 10.8K

October: 9.3K

November: 9.5K (estimated; adjusted for reporting lag)

So the pandemic is “over” in the sense that, at least for now, we’ve had a nine-month stretch with a monthly average hovering in the neighborhood of 10,000 deaths, i.e., 120,000 deaths per year, or about double a really bad flu season. Meanwhile, the terrible stretches in the spring of 2020, the winter of 2021, and the fall and winter of 2022, are rapidly receding from our increasingly transitory and fragmented cultural memory.

As for what the future holds, I wouldn’t be surprised if another 120,000 or so Americans die from COVID in the course of the coming year, and that this is treated as close to a non-story, as will be the fact that such a small portion of the population is getting the far more effective booster vaccines that are now available.

And not long after that the whole thing will fade into little more than a vague unpleasant memory, until the next time.

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