When it comes time to look back on the current decade, what will the top news stories have been?
Climate change, certainly. The Trumpization of the Republican Party/the big lie about election integrity? It’ll be up there. The pandemic? Most definitely.
Within the overarching topic of the pandemic, however, I think there may very well be a huge story—a positive one—that will, on its own, make many Top 10 lists at the end of the 2020s: the near-miraculous effectiveness of the vaccines and other treatments in the battle against SARS-CoV-2.
I was pondering this as I perused the latest Palm Springs wastewater testing results for SARS-CoV-2 levels. As we approached our print deadline, it appeared the most recent COVID-19 wave may have been cresting. (I say “may have,” because previous waves have included some brief decreases that were just temporary.) What strikes me is how bad, according to these wastewater-testing numbers, this wave has truly been: The only periods in which there was more SARS-CoV-2 found in wastewater samples were during the awful, deadly December 2020-January 2021 wave, which overwhelmed hospitals, and the December 2021-January 2022 omicron wave, during which case-count records were obliterated.
A lot of people have been sick with COVID-19 in recent weeks, and a lot remain sick. I started doing a mental tally of friends, colleagues and acquaintances who have had COVID-19 over the last month or so, and I lost count.
Yet … the hospitalization numbers remain low. As of this column’s deadline, 23 people, total, were in our three local hospitals with COVID-19. Compared to previous waves, that number is tiny. (It’s very possible this number will increase, as hospitalizations lag behind cases, which lag behind wastewater testing.)
Why? Partially, it may be because the current dominant variants, while incredibly contagious, aren’t as deadly as previous editions of SARS-CoV-2. The immunity from the insane O.G. omicron wave is playing a part, too.
But the biggest factor may very well vaccines. All of the people I know who’ve had COVID-19 in recent months were vaccinated, and most of those people were boosted. None of them were hospitalized, and most of them were only mildly sick.
These vaccines were based on a version of COVID-19 which is no longer really circulating—updated vaccines are likely on the way—yet these shots have saved, and continue to save, millions upon millions of lives. The fact that these vaccines were developed and deployed in about a year is amazing.
In fact, it’s pretty much a miracle. Science works—and we all owe our thanks to the people responsible. Without them, life would be unbearably worse right now.
Be sure to pick up a copy of the June 2022 print edition of the Coachella Valley Independent, on newsstands now. As always, thanks for reading, and don’t hesitate to drop me a line at the email address below if you have questions or comments.
Note: This is a slightly edited version of the editor’s note that appeared in the June 2022 print edition. Much of this column was originally published online in the May 16 Indy Digest.