Jack P. Carroll ’24
During the fall semester, I expressed my concerns about the future spread of Covid-19 after Trinity’s case count reached 56 and the country slowly began its descent into a deadly winter that would claim over 95,000 lives in January alone. I am pleased to report that since the publication of that article, more than 20% of the population has been fully vaccinated against the virus and the Biden Administration has announced that every adult will be eligible for the vaccine by April 19.
However, the pandemic is not over.
While I was initially optimistic about the vaccine rollout, the recent surge in variants and the wave of relaxed public health protocols nationwide have since complicated my hopes for a post-pandemic world. These developments have the potential to reverse the extraordinary progress that our country has made, and further extend our time in a pandemic that has exhausted all aspects of our everyday lives.
Before discarding the masks, arranging plans with large groups of friends, and returning to a pre-pandemic state of mind, it is important to consider the serious implications that the variants and relaxed protocols could have on our country’s health and wellbeing.
Earlier this month, CNBC reported on an Isreali study which found that the South African strain of the coronavirus (B.1.351) is able to break through some of the protection of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. While the sample size of the study was small and Professor Adi Stern noted that “more research is needed,” many have already anticipated the weakening impact that a variant outbreak could have on the vaccine.
When highlighting the importance of the vaccine rollout in a GatesNotes blog posting from March, co-founder of Microsoft Bill Gates–who predicted the worldwide spread of a highly infectious virus in a 2015 Ted Talk–wrote that “If we don’t get the vaccine out to every corner of the planet, we’ll have to live with the possibility that a much worse strain of the virus will emerge. We could even see a new variant emerge that evades existing vaccines altogether.”
In addition, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, recently told FOX Television Stations that the National Institute of Health is currently “stockpiling enough vaccines to be able to give boosters to people.” Facui added that, “we’re anticipating the need to be able to adjust to these variants that may arise, and we’re doing the clinical trials as well as purchasing more vaccine in case we do have to boost people.”
The decision of many states to lift safety restrictions could further contribute to a mutant spread and lead the current supply of vaccines to become less effective.
In the state of Connecticut, home to Trinity’s campus, Gov. Ned Lamont announced his plans to reopen businesses in March by eliminating capacity limits in restaurants, retail stores, fitness centers, among a longer list of facilities. In addition, Lamont expanded gathering sizes inside private residences from 25 people to 100 people.
Lamont’s plans came at a time when the country’s Covid-19 positivity rate was on a steady rise, and Fauci informed a Brandeis University panel that it was “ill-advised” for states to relax public health and safety measures. At the time of his comments, Fauci noted that “The baseline we’re now at between 60 and 70,000 case a day is unacceptably high for any significant pulling back on mitigation.”
Also, in Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis has developed the framework for his 2022 reelection campaign by removing and vehemently speaking out against Covid-19 safety protocols. In March, DeSantis signed an executive order which canceled all fines issued by local governments against residents and individuals related to Covid-19 restrictions. Mind you, the Johns Hopkins Covid-19 dashboard includes Florida among the list of states with the highest number of deaths (34,021) since the onset of the pandemic.
While the vaccine rollout is a pivotal development in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic, it is not an end in and of itself. The new variants threaten the progress that we have made and the wave of relaxed measures are bound to worsen the mutant spread. I hope that people across the country remain patient in the months to come so that we can return to our unmasked lives in the near future. However, with the current state of our country in mind, it appears as though the near future may be a very long time away.
Note: This article did not appear in the Apr. 13 print edition and ran initially online, but will appear in the Apr. 20 print edition.