– Ben Martens

COVID-19: Day 710

We’re coming up on two years since the pandemic started for our family. Washington is one of the last states with a mask mandate, but that is now scheduled to end in a month in most situations and work is fully reopening campus in March. So let’s take a walk through some stats and see what’s going on.

The official mortality data for the United States is available for 2020 now. The number of deaths each year grows with the population, but last year was one of the biggest jumps we’ve ever seen. Life expectancy decreased 1.8 years from 2019 to 2020 (from 78.8 years to 77.0 years) which is the largest single year decrease in more than 75 years. COVID was the 3rd most common cause of death. (If you really want to dive into this data, check out the CDC WONDER tool and get lost in the flood.) Globally those numbers are even worse and continue to be bad in places without the healthcare system that we have in place.

And here are similar stats but with raw numbers:

Heart disease: 696,962
Cancer: 602,350
COVID-19: 350,831
Accidents (unintentional injuries): 200,955
Stroke (cerebrovascular diseases): 160,264
Chronic lower respiratory diseases: 152,657
Alzheimer’s disease: 134,242
Diabetes: 102,188
Influenza and Pneumonia: 53,544
Nephritis, nephrotic syndrome, and nephrosis: 52,547

There are currently about 2000 people/day dying of COVID. If we leveled out here, that would be 730,000 deaths per year which would have COVID at the top of the list with 2020’s numbers. But we should be able to do better than that since the numbers are still falling. If we can bottom out at our lowest death rate and stay there, that would be 90,000 deaths per year, but we’ve already lost around that many people this year to Omicron so 2022 will be pretty high up on that list even in the best case. As a society we are in the middle of deciding how high up that list we’re willing to go. The catch is that this line item is arguably the one that we could control the easiest.

We’re getting to the point with Omicron where we’ll start to be able to assess how much immunity it provides. The health community defines a reinfection as occurring within 90 days, and we’re about 90 days out from when Omicron hit. That data will provide a good idea of how well the new policy changes will work, at least until the next variant hits.

The general feeling is that we’re switching from a pandemic to an endemic. That feels a bit premature, but if we can loosen the restrictions for a while, maybe that’s healthy for the nation. But we need to be ready to put them all back in place if/when the next wave hits. Thankfully, vaccination rates are still climbing, but there are also people who aren’t getting boosted on time. My prayer continues to be that we can educate people so we don’t have to force behavior on them. There’s so much data available now to show how effective the vaccines are. In our county (the 12th largest in the country), you are 33x more likely to die from COVID in the last 30 days if you’re unvaccinated than if you’re vaccinated.

So we’re able to stop requiring masks to entire public places or vaccines to enter restaurants, but let’s watch the data and be ready to pull those tools back out when it’s time. Encourage everyone you know to get vaccinated and stay up to date with their booster shots. We’re probably going to be living with COVID forever, so vaccines will play a key role in us finding a new normal that doesn’t involve mandates.

As this drags on and everyone is seemingly at each others throats about what to do next, the future can seem hopeless and dim. A recent devotion reminded me to be “fiercely dependent” on God. He’s the only true source of comfort and peace. Everything else will fail but his love never will. He’s given us tools to fight the pandemic. So let’s use them and get on with the business of sharing the saving message of Jesus with the world. Imagine if we were as focused on spreading the gospel as we were with convincing people that we were right about politics…