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The New Year is not Magical! Not yet anyway...

2020 is a year we are all still trying unpack.

I had this weird “push-me-pull-you” kind of year. On one hand, I was excited to be told to stay home and get work done, since I work out of a home office anyway. But staying home for EVERYTHING with no socializing, no travel, no visiting anyone anywhere -- by the Fall I felt ripped in two directions: safe and happy to be away from humans, yet torn about following the rules. I rode the roller-coaster of fine and depressed with the rest of the USA bc of social unrest, presidential coo-coo, and the pandemic scares. I’ve been "over it" since July . Now that it is well into winter here, I am truly well and done with pandemic.

While I would love to arbitrarily pretend that crossing into the new year has meaning to the pandemic — I cannot — and neither can you.

The virus persists and is not subsiding easily. The hope of a vaccine is fantastic, but as a country we cannot solve this with medicine alone. Our behavior still matters. We are far from out of this! So, as your Friendly Neighborhood Scientist, let’s look at the new year ahead.

1) The pandemic is the same. All the same rules apply. Even if you have been vaccinated you will need to mask, distance, stay home, and wash hands until the majority of the US (and world if you travel internationally) has been vaccinated.

2) “The majority of the US” is tantamount to herd immunity. True herd immunity is when 70-85% of the population is VACCINATED. In the US, that means no fewer than 229.74 MILLION people (70%) must have the first round of two shots before we can even begin to say as a nation we are sorted. In the US today, we are at 3-5 million currently with the first round of vaccine in arms. In other words, all of the same rules will continue to apply even after 230 M people have the vaccine on-board because another 97.46 MILLION will still harbor and spread the virus (assuming these are the 30% who will refuse vaccine). Ultimately, it will depend on how much uncontrolled virus is floating around in the unvaccinated population—which will still be considerable, since it is not a one-time everyone vaccinated kind of program. A rolling program means the virus can still be very present in the population, even when people are inoculated.

3) Q & A

- Can you still get the flu when you have a flu shot? Yes, but often not of a strain you have been vaccinated for.

- Can you still get COVID-19 with a vaccine? Maybe – but in a very small percent (5% chance if vaccines are 95% effective).

- What about this new COVID strain? It’s too soon to say in terms of vaccine protection, but for sure it spreads faster than other strains so precautions are more than needed still.

- Can you still get sick and die from COVID-19 with a negative test? ABSOLUTELY. Trust a positive; be wary of a negative. Loads of reports of negatively tested people either being spreaders and/or succumbing to the disease continue to roll out. Don’t be stupid. Use all precautions even with a negative test.

4) Should you get a COVID-19 vaccine? Duh. Does it matter which manufacturer? Nope.

5) If you decide not to get a vaccine and you come down with COVID – hopefully you won’t be clogging our health care system with your stupidity. Stay home, stay away from everyone, and if you die—please do it at home. I have actual family members in need of hospital services that are not COVID related right now and will thank you to not be in the health care system after refusing masks and vaccines. You said it was your choice? Right. Sucks to be you if you are stupid and die from it.

6) The long-hauler symptoms are real. This is still a CIRCULATORY disease. Some with even mild or no symptoms from their initial COVID infections (i.e., they tested positive, but had no idea they were sick) – are coming months later (up to 6-8 months) with clots, heart attacks, and strokes. YOU DON’T WANT THIS DISEASE. THERE IS NOT AN “EASY” VERSION OF IT.

7) Understand because of the behavior of the people in this nation, we will be well and truly in this mess for much of 2021. Even with vaccines.

In sum: Stay hunkered at home when you can. Do all the right behaviors for safety. Stay smart. Don’t be afraid. Get your shots when you can. And follow the public health rules in your state.

Oh -- and Happy New Year!

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