A preview of a longer pandemic


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All the things that could prolong the COVID-19 pandemic — that could make this virus a part of our lives longer than anyone wants — are playing out right in front of our eyes.

Driving the news: The British variant is driving another surge in cases in Michigan, and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has resisted reimposing any of the lockdown measures she embraced earlier in the pandemic.

  • Variants are beginning to infect more kids — “a brand new ball game,” as University of Minnesota epidemiologist Michael Osterholm recently put it.
  • New research confirms that our existing vaccines don’t work as well against the South African variant.
  • And some experts fear the pace of vaccinations in the U.S. is about to slow down.

Between the lines: The concern isn’t necessarily that the facts on the ground right now could end up being disastrous, but rather that we’re getting a preview of the longer, darker coronavirus future the U.S. may face without sufficient vaccinations.

  • If we don’t control the virus well enough, then even years into the future, we could be living through more new variants — some of which might be more deadly, some of which might be more resistant to vaccines, some of which might be more dangerous for certain specific populations.
  • That would translate into an ongoing risk of illness or potentially death for unvaccinated people and new races to reformulate vaccines as new variants keep emerging.
  • And it would lead to a world in which today’s vaccine-eager population would have to stay on top of those emerging risks, get booster shots when they’re available, and perhaps revive some of the pandemic’s social-distancing measures, in order to stay safe.

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