The coronavirus pandemic over the last 12 months and beyond.
July 1968, China. A new strain of flu takes over the country and kills about 15% of the population. By the end of the month, the virus spreads to Vietnam and Singapore. In September, the already pandemic reaches India, Australia and Europe. Half a year since the beginning, the virus makes Berlin authorities store corpses on the subway pavement. At the same time, garbage workers burn the bodies that have never been taken from hospitals all over Germany. Manufacturing in France gets paralyzed, and 1-4 million people die due to this Hong Kong flu. Researching how to prevent the spread of infection and virus, an American microbiologist Maurice Hilleman creates a vaccine, but the second wave kills even more people. After the third wave, the planet’s population becomes immune to the flu, and today everyone overcomes this strain as a regular seasonal flu.
Some scientists believe that COVID-19 disinfectant solutions, masks and the current vaccine status will follow the example of the Hong Kong flu, and the planet will get back to normal very soon. The less optimistic researchers expect the world to stay closed, limited in travel and extremely exposed to the new strains of SARS-CoV-2 for many years to come (especially considering the recent outbreak of the COVID-19 mutation in the UK). Epidemiologists now have their hands full with the predictions of “will COVID be over by 2021.” They are building the short- and long-term forecasts to mitigate the spread and consequences of the virus.
Whether the prediction is optimistic or not, one thing is definite: COVID-19 will stay with us for quite some time, whether we like it or not. So it is just about the moment to get used to it, understand the current state of affairs, and prepare for future scenarios.
COVID-19: a year’s recap
The whole pandemic can be divided into some seasons: winter-spring, when the country just learned about the virus; summer, when the drop in numbers was expected, and fall-winter – the end of the year surge, when, in theory, the government was ready for the worst-case scenario. Let’s recap on masks-wearing, handwashing, disinfection passages, first deaths, and the spiraling world crisis called COVID-19.
Winter-Spring: the beginning
Wuhan became a ghost city in December 2019, long before the world would understand the complexity and strength of the upcoming pandemic. While people were kissing under the mistletoe on Christmas and partying on December 31, 2019, the virus was occupying the world. Less than a week later, on January 11, China confirms the first death from unknown pneumonia. For the US, the date X is January 20, when the first case of the new coronavirus is recorded in Washington, and the question of how to prevent the spread of infection becomes of utmost importance.
On January 30, more than 200 people fall victim to the new virus, and the WHO declares a public health emergency of international concern. The US follows the shoes, and understanding the high-speed human-to-human transmission of the new disease, Alex Azar, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, declares the public health emergency. Further, Donal Trump restricts all travels to China.
February becomes the month of global air travel restrictions. All passengers entering the country have to undertake serious health screenings upon return and go through several disinfection passages to guarantee virus-free entrance to the country. Institutions hectically google “how does a disinfection tunnel work” to prepare for the upcoming development and preserve their traffic. At that point, the whole world knows that this disease is an acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2; the virus gets the name SARS-CoV-2, and it becomes clear that the virus spreads via air droplets from the infected people.
February, March, April and May are still the early stages of the pandemic in the country. The average number of reported cases is 20,000 individuals a day among the population of 331 million, making COVID-19 a fast-spreading yet controllable disease in the US. The President goes further with the travel restrictions in March, announcing an almost complete air travel ban from Europe and the UK. The NBA decides to suspend its season; Broadway closes; California followed by Washington and New York strongly urges people to stay at home and considers the new ways on how to prevent the spread of infection: disinfectant fogging solution and masks-wearing for public places. The measures may still look bizarre and harsh to the ordinary citizens; however, they try to comply with the set rules after the number reaches 1 million positively-tested Americans with 60,000 individuals passing away from the deadly virus. Meanwhile, the unemployment rates exceed 40 million, numerous protests against police violence after Floyd’s killing arise around the country, and masks-wearing is being encouraged with strong opposition from the President. This is only the end of May.
Summer: the next real wave
The summertime is expected to bring relief from COVID-19 all over the world. Researchers report that higher temperatures destroy or slow down the virus. This information makes the country more accessible and relaxed, giving the government time to prepare for the fall heat. The increased number of protective measures like sanitation tunnel solutions in hospitals and governmental institutions, as well as the obligatory use of COVID-19 disinfectant liquids, was supposed to become a magic wand against SARS-CoV-2. Such high hopes lead to the reopening of businesses in New York. However, only two weeks later, the country reaches its peak since April, setting the severity and caution of the governors to the highest alert.
Nevertheless, the awaited relief never comes. Trump refuses to sponsor the WHO and announces the official withdrawal of the USA from the organization. Atlanta suffers from a lawsuit against its governor for enforcing masks-wearing on its citizens. On July 22, the death rate stands at 1,136, when a week later, the total number is already 150,000.
The only good news summer brought to the US is a successful second tour of vaccine tests and Trump’s administration deal with Moderna. The country reserves 100 million vaccines for its population. COVID-19 testing gets faster and less painful to the participants as SalivaDirect introduces its new technology. However, while everyone expected to end the summer on a good note, on August 28, the first reinfection in the US gets reported countrywide.
Fall-winter: the steady worsening
An epidemiologist at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health said: “If we’re not going into the fall with a huge running start in terms of having cases at very, very low levels … we run the risk of having uncontrollable outbreaks.” Unfortunately, he was more than right when it comes to the prediction of the 2020 fall-winter months in the US. The question “how to prevent the spread of infection” and “coronavirus prevention” become the top googled phrases in the country at the end of 2020.
Starting from September, the US has a steady climbing graph of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths. The third wave of the pandemic hits the country hard, arising in all states simultaneously and taking over hospitals with less than 5% of beds left free. Now the disinfectant fogging solution gets even more popular in the high-traffic public areas. States individually implement bans on inside dining, continue closing schools of all levels, and introduce lockdowns throughout the country.
Some scientists like John Ioannidis, an epidemiologist and professor at Stanford University, claim that even though there is a deadly virus that needs to be treated carefully, but: “We don’t panic. We don’t destroy our world. We don’t freeze anything.” Ioannidis and many other Americans are against severe lockdowns demanding evidence of their efficiency, still wondering, however, about the ways how to prevent the spread of infection. The opposing camp of epidemiologists confirms that inaction is what caused such exorbitant numbers of COVID-19 and high death rates around the globe, including the US. They advocate for stricter measures to break the vicious circle of infection to take the virus under control once and for all.
The good news is that now more people are tested; hence, the disease is detected at earlier stages, improving the chances of full recovery for the citizens. Another positive aspect is that the methods of how to prevent the spread of infection seem to work more effectively, and more Americans tend to stick to the distancing rules. Coupled with the vaccination that the US started on December 14, 2020, all preventative measures against SARS-CoV-2 are expected to entail the good dynamics.
Coronavirus in the US today
Tackling pandemic and the ways how to prevent the spread of infection have become the top priority for Joe Biden, the President-elect. He has already vowed that once he is in office, on January 20, he will see into vaccinating 100 million people in the first 100 days of his presidency. Whether it will happen or not, the course of events will show. Yet, vaccination and new mutations arising in SARS-CoV-2 worldwide are still the hot topics inside the pandemic-stricken world.
It has already been a month since the vaccination started in the US. As of mid-January reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 7.73 million doses were used, amounting to the vaccination of 2.4 individuals per 100 people. However, it is surprising to note that only a third (30-35%) of all existing and available vaccination shots has been administered. This fact is attributed to the government’s stand that only particular groups of population (front-line health-care workers, citizens above 80 years old and their carers) should be addressed in the first wave of the national vaccination.
The idea was nice but ineffective. Many front-line workers refused from vaccination across the country (40% in LA County, 60% of home care employees in Ohio). Such a massive opposition led to about 70% of all vaccine shots simply being held in pharmacy refrigerators without any use while the vaccine-willing seniors aged 65-70 years were denied a jab. This unexpected outcome made the government reconsider its strategy. On January 6, during the news conference, Alex Azar, the Health and Human Services Secretary, urged governors all over the country to get all available vaccines to anyone interested as quickly as possible. His motto became not to let “perfection be the enemy of the good.” Florida, Louisiana and Texas have already allowed their 65+ senior citizens to line up for a vaccine shot; the following states are still working on making it possible:
- New York
- North Carolina
- West Virginia
Not all of these states set their threshold age at 65; some would allow only people over 70 or 80 to apply for a COVID-19 vaccine shot. Nonetheless, the tendency and willingness of the governors to take a stand have made an excellent impression countrywide.
Of course, vaccination does not mean that masks, handwashing, COVID-19 disinfection solutions, sanitation tunnel installations, and the rest of the preventative measures will be terminated. Vaccination ensures that a person will not get sick, but it cannot guarantee that this individual will not be the bearer and/or transmitter of the virus. Until herd immunity is reached (when 70-75% of the population is vaccinated), the country and its bodies, institutions, shops and schools still need to continue working on how to prevent the spread of infection. Therefore, it is highly recommended to check the disinfection tunnel price today when the demand remains low on the units. The current tendency provides that in a few more months when life will be getting back to the offline routine, such pieces of equipment will be the turning point determining whether an establishment, organization, or institution can be opened.
The first cases of the new SARS-CoV-2 strain were detected in September 2020 in the UK. However, a noticeable number of the mutated virus started appearing in other EU states as well as South Africa in December. This fact led to the complete lockdown of the UK, severe travel restrictions to and from the country, and deeper considerations on how to prevent the spread of infection.
The new strain has not been reported as deadlier; it is just a stickier one. This means that the already implemented disinfection passages, sanitation tunnel solutions, and the rest of measures remain effective. The difference is in the mutation of spike protein in the virus, which is responsible for getting into human cells for reproduction. It allows the virus to spread faster and easier, causing the COVID-19 rates to peak. One of the main concerns related to the new N501Y mutation in SARS-CoV-2 was whether the developed vaccines could protect against it. To answer the question, firstly, let’s outline the vaccines, which are available in the market:
- Pfizer/BioNTech: tested on 44K people over six months, it has an efficacy of 95%.
- Moderna: tested on 30K people over four months, it has the efficacy of 95% as well.
- AstraZeneca/Oxford: tested on 65K people over three months, it has the efficacy of 70% (questions on efficiency among older recipients remain).
- Novavax: tested on 45K people over three months; the vaccine is still at the stage of testing and results analysis.
- Johnson & Johnson: tested on 70K people over three months; the vaccine is still waiting for approval and trial results. The distinctive feature of the J&J vaccine is one shot instead of two as compared to the options above.
- Sinovac Biotech: tested on 26K people; the vaccine has been available to the public from the beginning. The trials have just ended, showing 78% efficacy in Brazil-based tests.
- Gamaleya: tested in Russia on 40K volunteers, the vaccine proves 91% efficiency. However, it is still available in very limited numbers.
- CanSino Biologics: was tested after being introduced to China’s military people. To this day, 40K tests were conducted, but the efficacy is still in question.
- Sinopharm: tested for 4.5 months to guarantee 79% efficacy.
Among those nine options, only the first two (Pfizer/BioNTech’s and Moderna) are authorized and recommended in the US. Pfizer is still in the process of trials whether its vaccine is efficient against the new strains; yet, the pre-trials show that the existing vaccine includes the new modifications, so it will help against the N501Y mutation. Moderna also does not expect the new mutation to affect the efficacy of its vaccine; the trials of AstraZeneca/Oxford and Novavax in Africa prove that both are efficient and can make the human body develop the required protection mechanism after vaccination. At this point, vaccination for 75% of the population and the development of herd immunity are the main answer on how to prevent the spread of infection.
Will COVID be over by 2021?
Well, it is 2021, and the pandemic is still here. Thus, the short and obvious answer to this question is “no, COVID-10 will not be over in 2021.” Moreover, considering the nature of any virus – to jump from one host to another for replication and spreading – SARS-CoV-2 will stay with us, particularly in the US for a long time, if not forever. So the question is really how to prevent the spread of infection and make it controllable, which means of protection to use, and when we all can expect the relief.
The models of future life with COVID-19
The truth is, there are dozens of models developed by epidemiologists, research centers, individual doctors, groups of researchers, universities, futurists, etc. Some of the most prominent ones can be found here. While each forecast takes a different stand on the upcoming state policies regarding schools reopening, mask-wearing mandates, use of the disinfectant fogging solution and vaccination progress, all of them demonstrate the same tendency – the increase of infected individuals, deaths, and communications. At the same time, some projections provide that by making obligatory masks-wearing only, the US will be able to reduce some of the deaths [graph]. Strict lockdowns with rapid vaccination can help with developing collective immunity. Provided that the tendency is preserved, according to Data Scientist, Youyang Gu, the nationwide immunity can be reached by the fall of 2021. Anthony Fauci, the leading infectious disease specialist in the US, confirms such a projection saying that “some semblance of normality” will be reached throughout the states by September this year.
How to prevent the spread of infection
We have recently covered the topic extensively on our blog, discussing COVID-19 preventative measures for high-traffic places. While we suggest checking the blog article for greater insight, here are some recommendations for the institutions, business centers, business owners and party planners on making their locales and ambiance safe from the omnipresent virus.
- Increase circulation of outdoor air through air-conditioning (provided that the filters are clean and new), fans and naturally open windows. Of course, approach the tip wisely and keep the in-building temperature 68-76 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Rearrange the space to reinforce social distancing between employees and clients (6 feet apart, plastic shields, specifically marked places for no-use and warning signs).
- Set up COVID-19 disinfectant solutions throughout the space for easy use (consider checking which solutions work better for your space here).
- Ensure fresh masks are available at the building entrance for anyone (not just employees or clients, but even delivery people and walk-ins).
- Install disinfection passages at the premises and ensure that they use dry-spray, not fogging method of spreading HOCI (you can find our offer of passages and learn about the distinctive features that SaniPass has to offer).
- Get a cleaning crew to regularly clean and disinfect high-traffic areas (elevators, check-in desks, receptions, bathrooms, etc.).
- Set up the attendance limit for your space based on the regulations in your state and city. Remember to maintain the person-limit with electronic counters or an employee checking upon the numbers.
Of course, this is not a complete list of recommendations, but only the must-haves and must-dos of fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. More tips can be found on the pages of CDC’s official website.
The bottom line
The COVID-19 pandemic has come unexpectedly and turned the world upside down. What started as an unknown pneumonia has locked people in their homes, covered their faces with masks, and made personal hygiene the major priority for everyone. Instead of funny videos, the top google searches this year became how to prevent the spread of infection and which COVID-19 disinfectant is efficient.
Despite the tough year, the country entered 2021 with a hope – the vaccine that is expected to help with the development of herd immunity by September. Undoubtedly, the existing virus-preventative measures like disinfection passages, sanitizers and face-covering will stay in place for quite some time to guarantee that the world’s population has adapted to the new reality. In the meantime, make sure that you keep your home and working environment safe, wash your hands and care about your own health until the COVID-19 pandemic becomes history.