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Bloomberg article warns it's time to 'start planning for a permanent pandemic'

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That sounds pretty alarming

Photo by JURE MAKOVEC/AFP via Getty Images

If you're to believe a Thursday Bloomberg report, it's high time to start planning for a "permanent pandemic."

What are the details?

Bloomberg reporter Andreas Kluth suggested that Americans get ready for full-time pandemic preparation.

"For the past year, an assumption — sometimes explicit, often tacit — has informed almost all our thinking about the pandemic: At some point, it will be over, and then we'll go 'back to normal,'" Kluth wrote. "This premise is almost certainly wrong."

There is no getting back to "normal," according to Kluth, who said that Americans ought to prepare themselves to fight COVID-19 — a "permanent enemy," like influenza, "but worse."

"In the case of SARS-CoV-2 ... recent developments suggest that we may never achieve herd immunity," Kluth continued, shooting down the idea of herd immunity. "Even in the U.S., which leads most other countries in vaccinations and already had large outbreaks, won't get there."

Not even vaccines were safe from Kluth's critical eye.

"That leaves only vaccination as a path toward lasting herd immunity," Kluth wrote. "And admittedly, some of the shots available today are still somewhat effective against some of the new variants. But over time they will become powerless against the coming mutations."

Modifications to existing vaccines, Kluth wrote, will need to be made as the pandemic continues.

"[T]hat process can't happen fast enough, nor cover the planet widely enough," Kluth added. "Yes, some of us may win a regional round or two against the virus, by vaccinating one particular population — as Israel has done, for instance. But evolution doesn't care where it does its work, and the virus replicates wherever it finds warm and unvaccinated bodies with cells that let it reproduce its RNA."

Kluth warned, "As it copies itself, it makes occasional coding mistakes. And some of those chance errors turn into yet more mutations."

Two paths

"Consider two alternative evolutionary paths," Kluth continued. "In one, a virus becomes more severe but not more transmissible. It will cause more disease and death, but the growth is linear. In the other path, a mutating virus becomes neither more nor less virulent but more contagious. It will cause increases in disease and death that are exponential rather than linear."

If the latter is the "evolutionary trajectory" of the virus, Kluth pointed out, "we're in for seemingly endless cycles of outbreaks and remissions, social restrictions, and relaxations, lockdowns, and reopening."

Despite the dire tone of the editorial, Kluth wrote that he is not "arguing for defeatism."

"In the grand sweep of history, COVID-19 is still a relatively mild pandemic," he reasoned. "Smallpox killed nine out of 10 Native Americans after the Spanish brought it to the Americas in the 16th century. The Black Death carried off about half of the Mediterranean population when it first came to Europe in the sixth century. Worldwide, the coronavirus has killed fewer than four in 10,000 so far. And with our science and technology, we're armed as our ancestors never were."

He added that Americans need to be realistic.

"Resilience demands that we include this new scenario into our planning," he concluded. "The good news is that we keep getting better at responding. In each lockdown, for example, we damage the economy less than in the previous one. And we may achieve scientific breakthroughs that will eventually make life better. Our Brave New World needn't be dystopian. But it won't look anything like the old world."

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