The New Normal Looks Like The Old One

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Stanford University researchers recently tested over 3000 adults and children in Santa Clara County in California for Covid-19 antibodies.  A lot of details on this study are available, but the bottom line is that the information suggests the virus has been here far longer than we thought and it’s likely far more widespread.  People had it and didn’t know it.  Herd immunity was calmly developing before the news media first decided to be upset about Covid-19. It’s not much of a stretch to suggest also that the virus is not nearly as dangerous as we thought.  Please don’t go rushing into the streets, shaking hands and kissing each other based on what I’m saying here.  I’ve made a retired career out of being happily irresponsible and I’m not going to change now.

I have suggested, in various ways, over the past three months that the long term view of this pandemic will look far different than it does today.  We’re getting there. If you want to know how we’ll eventually view the Covid-19 pandemic, just think about how you view tuberculosis or the flu.  Study the history.  They were both horrible pandemics.  They were nightmare killers. Think about how we view them today.  It’s a safe bet that if I walk up to just about anyone on the street and ask “Wow, that deal with tuberculosis back in the 1800s was just awful, wasn’t it?”  the probable answer would be “Yeah.  I guess so.”  We forget very  quickly.  That’s our nature.

I hear the criticism of how this apparent emergency was handled.  Trillions spent!  I don’t know about you, but even if they discovered tomorrow that the virus doesn’t actually exist, I’m still  not going to have a problem with the government giving me some of my money back.  I’m not built to feel that way.

I don’t know the exact timing of when the new normal starts looking like the old normal.  But I believe it’ll happen sooner that we suspect.  We’re not going to “social distance” forever, and it’ll happen before we can think of a better term for it (like “being careful,” maybe?)

An awful lot of talking heads are now slamming the earlier models which are now “wrong.”  I’ve listened to dozens and dozens of scientists who have said, in one way or another, that of course the models were wrong.  That’s because they’re models.  A model is built with assumptions, and are only as good as those assumptions.  And of course some of the assumptions are incorrect, and the models get adjusted.  When the problem is finally solved and ended, the models serve as information for the future.

Let’s say you’re sitting at home and decide you want a hamburger.  You hop in your car, drive across town and take a short cut that happens to be a dead end.  You correct the error and get your hamburger.  The next time you’re hungry, you avoid making that mistake again. There.  You’ve adjusted your model, and it’s better than it was when you started.  If you wish to spend even a minute of your time assigning blame for your erroneous model, that’s your privilege.  I’m only on the smart edge of half simple, but I say when you correct your model you’re smarter and you’ve got a hamburger.

Why are we so upset with models?  An apparent emergency occurred and we tried to make intelligent plans.  Why do we feel the need to assign blame when we know very well that folks did the best they could with what they had and got better as they learned? it’s illogical and downright silly.

Here’s something we’ve learned:  we can knock down a highly contagious virus by staying home and being careful.  In fact, we can knock down many health problems simply by washing our hands, keeping our distance and being careful.  I suspect we’ll forget that too.

4 thoughts on “The New Normal Looks Like The Old One

  1. You’ve done it again, Dick! Patience is the name of the game. We all must wait and be full of hope. Thanks for ALWAYS saying what many of us feel but aren’t able to articulate.

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  2. Interesting as always, my friend. I have only one quibble. People don’t develop herd immunity: They benefit from it. If a sufficient number of people have contact with a germ or virus and develop antibodies to it, such a situation is “protective”, indirectly, of those that haven’t been affected. Those with antibodies don’t carry the germ or virus because of the antibodies they have. Therefore, they are not carriers to those not yet immune. The percentage of a population that must have antibodies for the herd immunity concept to be “viable,” varies with the germ or virus. Measles, as an extreme, requires better than 86% of people to carry antibodies. This is why when the antivaxers in California were spewing their misguided propaganda, Measles became rampant again in that state. Through serum antibody testing, the conclusion was that antibody prevalence had only dropped to about 82%. But what a difference it made. We don’t know what the percentage of sero-prevalence for CoV-2 antibodies will need to be.We will only learn that retrospectively.

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