Three Years into the Covid-19 singularity

On March 11, 2020 the WHO declared COVID-19 viral disease a pandemic.  Since then the world has suffered 5.42 million officially reported as due to COVID-19 and excess mortality is estimated by the WHO at 14.83 million, as of December 2022.  It is estimated that there were 675 million covid inflections worldwide.

Official reporting in many places is suspect, as the requirement to count as a covid death is made very difficult, if not practically impossible.  (Iran, India, and China, but also certain states in the US)

Even in the first world, where very good vaccines are available, there are still ongoing hospitalizations, and deaths, at a steady level and mostly the elderly or the wilfully unvaccinated.  

There is also a large number of people suffering from “Long Covid“, having survived a covid inflections maybe 10% are severely weakened with any of: joint pain / heart palpitations / lung problems / brain fog.  So 65 million people have been permanently disabled.

There has also been a tremendous strain on healthcare resources and stress on healthcare staff. This has been the cause of some excess mortality due to deals in treatment, and is leading to future deaths, or loss of quality of life.

So the covid pandemic isn’t over, but fatigue has certainly set in, nd sometimes a rush to embrace the before times. For better and worse.

In many ways the world seems to be recovering.  But that recovery is partial and hugely complicated by the Russian invasion of Ukraine started in late february 2022.  That has added to a great deal of uncertainty, and inflation, on a global scale.

As an example: according to the United Nations World Tourism Organization, the tourism sector has recovered to about 65% of its pre-pandemic levels. So tourism dependent countries and businesses will not be fully back.

Many but not all in-person businesses survived and are bouncing back.  Full staffing, at least in North America, continues to be a problem for many businesses.  Many who were landoff appear to have found other work.

Online e-commerce and video streaming have declined from the peak but at a level higher than per-pandemic.  They are both now mainstream. Streaming is now the default. Traditional broadcasters are trying to adapt.    

There is a question of how many of these services you can subscribe to, and which ones will survive the coming consolidation.  

But people are enjoying going back in person, even if they are now aware of an alternative.  

This has lead to layoffs in the software industry, after many years of only increasing demand and salaries.

Most “white collar” workers who spent the pandemic doing work from Home (WFH) have returned to the office for some days of the week.  Some remote work seems like a new fixture, but management is trying to find a new balance.

Although manual work in hospitals, factories and warehouses cannot be done remotely and those (frequently underpaid) people have disproportionately cared the burden. We and the politicas have conveniently forgot the essential workers that were heralded in the early pandemic.

Online learning for primary school looks to have been a disaster, at least because of the cost of the required broadband internet and hardware.  Also the daycare aspects of K to 12 education were under appreciated.  Online learning only seems to work for the highly motivated.  Maybe this highlights the failure of education in general to motivate and teach how to learn? We may have suffered a 2 year gap in primary education.

The realm of healthcare and medicine have seen rapid advances in mRNA vaccines for other infectious diseases, public health Wastewater surveillance used to track and monitor diseases, and  shotgun metagenomic sequencing allowing researchers to comprehensively sample all genes in all organisms present in a given complex sample.

Unfortunately there has been a politicization of masking, vaccines and public health measures in many places.

So, three years into the ongoing singularity :

  • There has been mass death and injury (long covid) but less than it could have been if not for public health measures (social distancing and masking), vaccines, and the heroic efforts of healthcare workers.
  • The globalization of supply chains appears to have peeked and is undergoing a rebalancing. Governments are relooking at essential healthcare and military supplies either within national borders or “friendshoring” to close allies.  Companies are seeing the issues when complex just-in-time supply chains get affected by unexpected events.  Although this rebalancing arose during the pandemic it is now being driven by the war in Ukraine, and worries about China.
  • The internet as a delivery platform for almost instant everything took another big step forward. The Streaming of Things : stuff/groceries/meals, (including ghost kitchens aka dark kitchens without a physical retail presence but using a food delivery service).  The Streaming of knowledge work. The Streaming of communication & entertainment, whether one to one, one to many, text / audio or video.  These are now all mainstream.  The absolute need for widespread, affordable high speed broadband has been demonstrated.
  • I’m not sure if we are better prepared for the next pandemic. (and there will be one).
    • Technologically we are better prepared. We know we can switch to online for many things. And we have better tools to detect and treat. This was pre-existing trend that the pandemic strengthened.
    • Politically we are not better prepared and my be much worse off. Even though covid-19 was a “Novel Coronavirus” in 2019, public health officials who made inherently conservative recommendations based on based on limited information, have been unfairly vilified. There was political support for public health and economic support, but there were also incompetent politicians who used the pandemic for gain. That empowered a vocal minor of angry individualistic and right wing people who coalesced around the ideal of not sacrificing any “freedums” for the sake of the community. And some of the retreat of globalization has been driven by nationalism and racism even against long term allies. This was also pre-existing trend that the pandemic strengthened.

Three years in and I would be unwilling to say the pandemic over.  Maybe if we don’t see a newer and deadly variant emerge (and we have been very lucky that these variants have been more communicable but not more deadly) in the next year might see the end of the pandemic.  And then we “only” have to worry about covid as an endemic. And the cost of long covid. 🙁  

Leave a Reply