We Are Just Lucky Covid-19 Wasn’t Worse

Because it could have been. And probably should have been.

Will Leitch

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The Covid-19 catastrophe in the United States is the worst it has ever been, and with the Thanksgiving holiday looming, it’s about to get even worse. We’re on the cusp of 2,000 deaths a day for the first time since May, and it is likely that this week or next we will reach 200,000 cases in a single day for the first time ever. Remember, Dr. Fauci’s terrifying estimate back in late March that “100,000–200,000” Americans could die from Covid-19? We’re already at 259,000, and on track for 400,000 by February. This is a disaster in every possible way.

Still, I can’t shake a nagging feeling: This could have been a lot worse. It is unfortunate, to say the least, that we’ve had such a meager, even indifferent federal response, but in many ways, we’ve actually been quite lucky. Covid-19 has disrupted every aspect of human life on this planet, and it will take us years, maybe decades, to deal with its ramifications. But when you take a step back and look at the virus itself, and some of the other viruses we’ve barely evaded in the past, it’s clear we’ve caught a bunch of breaks.

How lucky are we? Here’s how Covid-19 was weaker than it could have been … and just how fortunate we are.

  1. It appears to be primarily transmittable through only the air. Early on in the pandemic, we were scrubbing down everything, leaving our packages outside the house for days to decontaminate, basically gargling hand sanitizer. As it turns out, it’s doesn’t seem to be that transmittable through surfaces. While the science isn’t entirely settled, it could mean we’re entirely wasting our time wiping down our tables — it’s a good practice, generally! — but it’s one less transmission vector than we thought there was. Transmission through the air is bad, to be sure. But not as bad as through the air and on surfaces.
  2. Masks work. Much of the early confusion about mask usage stemmed from a fear of a shortage of n95 masks; medical professionals, including Dr. Fauci, worried that a run on n95 masks from the general public would make it difficult for health care providers to find them. They went back on that advice quickly, and for good reason: It turned out that simple cloth masks, even ones you can…

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Will Leitch

Author of six books, including “How Lucky” and "The Time Has Come." NYMag/MLB.. Founder, Deadspin. https://williamfleitch.substack.com