A promising vaccine, with more to come. Improved tests. Better therapies. A new president with a more vigorous federal strategy and fierce commitment to behaviors that are proven to work: Masks, distancing and small outdoor-only gatherings.
Even in this dark moment, as coronavirus cases surge to even more alarming levels and new lockdowns are imposed, there is a path forward to guide us out of this pandemic, experts say.
What will life look like over the next year? Today, in the first installment of a new series “Coronavirus: The Path Forward,” we offer a month-by-month forecast of some key moments in our likely future, based on research, interviews and some educated guessing. Some are small and personal; others are grand and transformative. To be sure, the details may change, and surprise us. But this road map offers a guide for how we’ll navigate this pandemic — and eventually bounce back.
We approach our 250,000th American death. That’s the equivalent of 500 747s crashing on U.S. soil. What’s the big picture? UC Berkeley demographers say the virus will shorten this country’s average lifespan in 2020 by about a year. That’s because older people, with fewer remaining years of life, represent the most fatalities. But without interventions, they say, we could have lost five years.
Small is beautiful. In anticipation of more intimate Thanksgiving holidays, sales of tiny turkeys and boneless breasts are up, while large 25-pounders sit unsold. Experts urge us to gather together in familiar “pods,” ideally distanced and outdoors, bundled up.
Several major retailers have changed their Black Friday plans to prevent chaos and congestion. Stores like Target, Best Buy, Walmart and Macy’s are instead offering multiday online discounts.
Expect more good vaccine data. On the heels of Pfizer’s thrilling news earlier this month of a vaccine on the way with 90% efficacy, Moderna will soon announce its own data. Because the companies use the same approach, there’s optimism.
The vaccine arrives. But distribution is daunting, because both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require ultra-cold storage. And there won’t be enough: Combined, the two manufacturers may produce a global supply of 70 million doses by January. If allocation is based on population, that means that fewer than 200,000 Californians might receive the two-dose regimen by the end of the year. But it’s a start.
Ski resorts reopen. But they will look different, with more face masks, fewer hot toddies and long spaced-out lift lines.
Spirituality is adapting, also. Monterey’s 229-year-old San Carlos Cathedral is inviting people to bring their own chairs to Christmas Eve mass in a large adjacent courtyard. San Francisco’s Grace Cathedral is planning digital holiday services – including a sing-along-at-home evening of favorite holiday carols.
Hospitals are braced for a post-holiday spike in cases. But then: Let’s be done with 2020. All over the U.S., people are skipping New Year’s Eve celebrations. Even NYC’s Times Square will be largely virtual. While the iconic ball will drop, barricades are banning crowds.
What else? Pull up a chair. This is a big month. Let’s start with education.
“We will see schools reopen at all levels after the winter break unless resurgence because more serious,” said Troy Flint of the California School Board Association. “But we’ll see a range of different decisions, based on the community.”
At universities, it’s a mixed picture. Stanford freshmen and sophomores are scheduled to arrive on campus on Jan. 11; Santa Clara University and the University of Southern California are offering a mix of in-person and online classes. Most UC, CSU and community colleges will remain largely online this spring. And many students who lived on campus and studied online in the fall may opt to stay home, preferring to study there rather than a restrictive dorm.
The month wraps up with the presidential inauguration Jan. 20. How will things change under a President Biden? He’s vowed to push every state governor to implement a mask mandate and has pledged $25 billion in federal funding for vaccines. Also promised: a 100,000-person “contact tracing corps,” and use of the Defense Production Act to replenish depleted stocks of PPEs.
It’s been one year since the virus began to spread in the U.S. — and now scientists are tracking its every move. More than 100,000 different genetic sequences have been logged in UC Santa Cruz’s Genome Browser, allowing researchers to find new mutations, link cases and detect transmission patterns.
There will be a Super Bowl on Feb. 7, but getting a ticket to one of sports’ most sought-after events should be much harder.
The NFL says it might reduce seating at Tampa’s stadium to 20% of capacity.
New diagnostic tests are coming online, as the new administration promises to expand testing. Expect more interest in quick, low-cost and at-home “antigen tests” for screening of asymptomatic people.
March 19 is medicine’s “Match Day,” when young doctors discover their residency and fellowship training positions. The pandemic is credited with a surge in interest in medicine, with medical schools reporting a 25% jump in applications.
And the Oscar goes to…Netflix? Originally scheduled for February, the 93rd Academy Awards will be on April 25 at L.A.’s Dolby Theatre — and, for the first time, films that premiered on streaming platforms are eligible to win. But fears of a “superspreader” event may spook the stars, causing them to bow out of red carpet hugs. Like us, they’ll stay home in their jammies.
Vaccines, round two! The next round of immunizations — from AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson and Merck — could start arriving in the spring. Here’s more good news: They don’t require ultra-cold storage, so they’ll be easier to administer. And they’ll significantly boost supplies.
About 370 new potential treatments are in the clinical testing pipeline, with some earning approval. “But I don’t think there will be a blockbuster drug,” said Stanford University’s Dr. Yvonne Maldonado. Rather, she predicts that combinations of therapies – antivirals, anti-inflammatory agents and drugs that regulate immunity — will work best.
All those postponed nuptials? They’re happening now, said Ana Vargas of the L.A.-based Sterling Engagements. But gone is the 200-person mega-event; with 6 feet between tables, you’d need a football field. Instead, most couples are planning weddings that are small and charming.
It’s been a year since tech workers packed up their overpriced apartments and escaped to Tahoe, Jackson Hole, Moab or the family’s back bedroom in Anaheim. Last summer’s exodus is still reflected in property prices, with rents flat in the Los Angeles area and reduced in San Francisco, said Zillow economist Cheryl Young.
But that could begin to change this month, as Google, Facebook, Apple and other tech companies start a multiphase approach that lets employees trickle back in.
Games on! Pushed back a year, the 2020 Olympics will be from July 23 to Aug. 8 — so Japan and the Tokyo Organizing Committee are busy creating testing regimens, rules of behavior in the Olympic Village, rules for spectating, and how to handle an outbreak among athletes.
SEPTEMBER AND BEYOND
Perhaps by next autumn, if our vaccine rollout is a success, life will feel safe enough to ease anxieties, rebuild relationships and start an unfettered restoration of the economy.
“As we work to contain this epidemic,” said UC Berkeley demographer Ronald Lee, “it is important to know that we have been through such mortality crises before.”
Source: Orange County Register