Halloween Horrors Don’t Begin to Compete
‘Tis the season for all-things-horrifying: skeletons leering at us from porches, witches suspended in their flights across the yard, cemeteries popping up in the neighbors’ lawns. Some communities are embracing all the Halloween fun they can—setting up socially-distanced walks through a haunted forest or devising ways to deliver touch-free treats to neighborhood children.
Others, not so much. Those cemetery displays just may be too evocative of the cost coronavirus—and our country’s inadequate response to same—is exacting. And the prospect of the oncoming colder temps and shorter days, which may reduce our chances of finding respite outdoors, may be scary enough without witches or skeletons.
Many of us hoped a vaccine would arrive before the cold and dark of winter did—even as we worried about the political pressures applied to try to push its arrival to early November. More realistic timelines estimate a vaccine or two will gain FDA approval by the end of the year. Even as we celebrate that approval—whenever it comes—we need to remind ourselves that approval is just step one.
Step two—manufacturing the vaccine—is already underway in some cases, even while dozens of vaccine candidates continue to be tested. That’s because it will take time to manufacture enough of it. Supplying just one dose of the vaccine to each person in the US will require about 331 million doses. Many experts think each person will need two doses to confer immunity.
In an interview, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the pandemic’s voice of reason, estimated there might be 50 to 100 million doses of the vaccine available at some point “well into 2021.” At two-doses-per-person, 50 to 100 million doses will be enough to vaccinate about 11 percent of the population. Around 10 percent of the overall US population has antibodies to COVID-19 due to having had it.
Population (herd) immunity won’t be achieved until we’re at perhaps 70 percent.
Associated with step two (let’s call it step two dot five): producing enough glass vials to put the vaccine into and glass syringes to administer it: there’s been a shortage of medical grade glass.
There’s also (step three) the matter of getting the vaccine from its manufacturing sites to its distribution sites. This will be no small task for something that may well require ultra-cold storage throughout its journey to assure it’s viable at time of vaccination.
The vaccination itself (step four) will be tricky. Both of the current vaccine frontrunners require a second dose be given a specific period of time after the first. Both doses of the vaccine need to be of the same product. Just keeping track of who-got-what-vaccine-when will be a challenge. To say the very least.
Clearly, we need to take the long view: we could easily be suspended in this socially-distanced, mask-wearing “great pause” for more time going forward than we’ve already spent here. Dr. Fauci, speaking with an MSNBC interviewer, estimated that the timeline for getting back to some semblance of our pre-pandemic normal is “…well into 2021, maybe even toward the end of 2021.”
Most of us likely find that prospect daunting, at best. But—we’re resilient. We can find ways to pass the intervening months that help to assure we’ll be around to enjoy that next-normal when it arrives.
We know some of those ways already: we can wear masks and socially distance ourselves. We can wash our hands and keep our hands away from our faces. We can limit the number of people (outside our households) we associate with, and keep our in-person interactions with others brief. We can avoid large, indoor gatherings altogether.
We can help combat isolation—our own or others’—by placing more phone calls, and by sharpening and sharing those Zoom and FaceTime skills. These are great tools for connecting families and friends. We can arrange “window visits” to loved ones who live in care facilities where in-person visits aren’t possible.
We also can avail ourselves of the burgeoning number of online classes, events, presentations, concerts, performances—you name it. CAMP Rehoboth pivoted swiftly from in-person to online programs; innumerable other organizations did as well. Many have enjoyed massive upticks in the number of enrollments or registrations, as barriers to access—such as distance or venue size—disappeared.
And, unless the weather outside is very frightful, the great outdoors is still our friend. The exercise of a walk or bike ride is good for us; the ability to more safely socialize is even better. The firepit—circled by socially-distanced seating—can warm a small party; the grill can produce a very decent meal to serve directly onto plates diners supply for themselves.
Halloween ushers in the big fall/winter holiday season, one full of festivities that—this year—will require extraordinary effort to achieve. Or may not be achievable at all. So, we also can begin planning some alternatives: holidays can be hard in the best and easiest of times. This year, our times already are not-so-good and far-from-easy. Let’s start now to see what fall and winter fun we can conjure—say, where was that witch?!
Marj Shannon is an epidemiologist and wordsmith who has devoted her life to minutiae. She reports that yes, the devils are in the details.