The Beginning of the End

Last night, I walked to the Hudson to watch the sunset. Every restaurant was full (at 50 or 75% capacity – whatever we’re at right now), and on my way back from the river, it struck me that, for the first time in months, a majority of people out and about were not wearing masks. This, along with the recent CDC revision of guidance on mask-wearing, strikes me as a touch premature, but the COVID numbers have, indeed, improved dramatically in NYC as across the US, and, so far, the vaccines seem to be proving largely effective against even the worst variants (though the risk of immune escape remains ever-present).

It is hard to write about such relatively good news here while following the heartbreaking news from India, and I’ve been preoccupied not only with the monumental tragedy unfolding on the subcontinent, but with family matters here as well, and so on hiatus from this blog. Still, in considering the largely human- (read: government-) made catastrophe enveloping India, it can be helpful to be reminded just how quickly things can change, epidemiologically speaking. Back in mid-December, as a brutal third (or fourth) wave swept the US, and many commentators with reaches far exceeding my own highlighted that, at the then-current rate, it would take the US until 2024 or something to vaccinate our entire population, I wrote:

“Either way, what all this math suggests to me is that the pandemic in the US will likely be over by March or April, given the devastating amount of transmission that is already largely “baked in,” and so long as the vaccine rollout proceeds roughly as has been outlined above.”

You’re welcome. I hope events as they unfold continue to prove me right, and that not only the US, but India, and the rest of the world can soon move on from the heartbreak and devastation of the past year or two, ideally to focus more on climate crisis, public health, the alleviation of hunger, etc., etc., and less on a New Cold War.

Reading Material

I have a huge backlog of flagged articles. Roughly chronologically: Ashish Jha on the switch from supply to demand constraint on vaccine distribution in the US. “New Study Finds U.S. Oil and Gas Methane Emissions Are 60 Percent Higher Than EPA Reports” – surprise! And a pretty graph about “methane leaks from oil and gas facilities.” Bill Gates, farmer. Expect more (US) western wildfires. “The Zero Covid strategy protects people and economies more effectively” – obvi. “We sampled tap water across the US – and found arsenic, lead and toxic chemicals” which is bad news. In more of it, “Banks pledge to fight climate crisis – but their boards have deep links with fossil fuels.” But walking and biking are good ways to reduce emissions. These Google Earth time-lapse images are amazing and alarming. Bill Gates, jerk, monster. “Gas is the new coal” when it comes to the risk of stranded assets. “A new study of indoor dust found PFAS and other toxics that can lead to infertility, diabetes, obesity, abnormal fetal growth, and cancers.” “In our haste to ban or regulate unsustainable and environmentally damaging materials and chemicals, we may overlook dangers posed by their substitutes.” “More sophisticated commercial buyers and more risk-aware buyers respond more to floodplain information. This underpricing increases incentives to develop in hazardous places. Enhanced communication of flood risk could help ensure such risk is appropriately reflected in market outcomes.” “Study finds ride-sharing intensifies urban road congestion.” “Andrew Yang’s ‘Plan’ For The MTA is Empty Promises that Won’t Work Anyway.” Bill de Blasio, bad mayor. “Flu Has Disappeared Worldwide during the COVID Pandemic” – who knew?! Amazing global carbon dioxide flux visualization from NASA. And finally, the NYC City Council has passed legislation (finally) to ban the use of a bunch of toxic pesticides on all City property.

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