The Road Back to Normal

By Charlie Bilello

22 Feb 2021

Last month I outlined the data pointing to the beginning of the end of covid-19.

Since then, I’m happy to report that some incredible progress has been made…

  • Covid-19 hospitalizations in the US have declined 40 days in a row, down over 57% from their peak on January 6. At 56,159, hospitalizations are now back below the peaks from last April (59,924) and July (59,808).
  • Covid-19 new cases per day have fallen 74% from their peak on January 11. At 64,301, they are now back below the high from last July and at the lowest levels since October 23.
  • The percentage of positive covid-19 tests has moved below 5% for the first time in 4 months.
  • Covid-19 deaths are down 43% from their peak on January 13 and at their lowest level since early December.

While we haven’t reached herd immunity just yet, we’re getting closer every day, and with that closer to the pre-covid sense of normalcy we all seek.

Here’s where we stand on that front…

Roughly 29 million Americans have tested positive for the virus to date. But based on antibody studies and estimated infection fatality rates from the CDC, the actual number of people who have contracted the virus is likely closer to 100 million, or at least 30% of the US population.

Additionally, over 13% of Americans have now received at least one dose of the Pfizer/Moderna vaccine, with older Americans being vaccinated at much higher rates.

The importance of this cannot be overstated, as this virus has been particularly fatal for older men and women. Americans age 75 and older represent only 6% of the population but 60% of all covid-19 deaths and over 80% of all covid-19 deaths have come from Americans over the age of 64.

Which is why I’m excited to write that 63% of Americans age 75 and older and nearly half of those above 64 have already been given at least 1 dose of the vaccine.

This wonderful trend should continue to push down hospitalizations and deaths in the coming weeks and months.

As for the vaccines, the limiting factor remains supply, but we’ll soon see a significant increase as the FDA is set to meet this week to review the Johnson & Johnson vaccine application for emergency use. J&J said it will be able to produce 20 million doses by the end of March and 100 million by the end of June. And as the J&J vaccine only requires a single dose (vs. 2 doses for Pfizer/Moderna), this will mean an additional 100 million people than can be vaccinated within the next 4 months (J&J Phase 3 trials showed 85% effectiveness against severe disease and zero cases of hospitalization or death 28 days post-vaccination).

The road back to normal is finally within sight, paved by the combination of natural infections and highly effective vaccines. As more and more people are vaccinated in the coming months, I hope this will translate into a resumption of face-to-face interpersonal connections that have been put on hold for far too long.

Grandparents will be able to safely hug their grandkids again; weddings, birthdays and graduations will be celebrated again; and kids will be able to be kids again, returning to school and playing together.

Which is another way of saying that after a yearlong hiatus, humans can start being humans again. That’s something we should all be celebrating, and I look forward to writing that post in the not too distant future.


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