Depending on which state you live in, you are either approaching or passing the one year anniversary of COVID-19 lockdowns. We all remember the empty shelves of canned goods, toilet paper, disinfectant sprays, and paper towels. There were long lines outside grocery stores and people scrambled to get as much bleach as possible. Times were tough, businesses went under, and the virus unfortunately claimed the lives of millions worldwide. The good news is that we have made a tremendous amount of progress and the future looks brighter and promising.
It’s safe to say that people never experienced anything like this pandemic ever before. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended limited gatherings, social distancing, frequent hand washing, and mask wearing. For many Americans, March 2020 was a time of relearning, acclimating to the new times. “Uncertain times” and “social distancing” became part of the lexicon, and people worried like crazy. Would we ever emerge from COVID-19? Could we ever return to some sense of normalcy?
More Than One Year Later
It’s not over, but the ride will hopefully be a little less bumpy from now on. Numbers continue to drop and vaccines roll out daily. Additionally, health experts know so much more about the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, than they did back in March 2020. Infectious disease specialists always knew that something like COVID-19 could happen, but it’s different when it happens on a global scale. It’s even worse when nobody is ready for it.
We Learned About Its Origins
The theory that is still most plausible is that the SARS-CoV-2 virus originated in bats and was passed to humans. The World Health Organization (WHO) conducted a month-long investigation and this is the conclusion they arrived at. There are other narratives and conspiracy theories in existence, but this theory is the most valid. Virologists also think people should know that seven different human coronaviruses are also exist. Four mild strains circulate among humans and are likely responsible for 30% of common colds. SARS-CoV-2 is more like a combination of SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) and MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome). SARS-CoV-2 is less lethal than SARS and MERS is more global, according to scientists.
We Learned That Asymptomatic People Can Spread It
It’s not uncommon for someone to experience a flu or common cold with less severe symptoms. At the first sign of these symptoms, it’s always been best to isolate until they diminish. This is not the case for COVID-19. A high percentage of infected people experienced no symptoms, but they could still transmit the virus to others. Infectious disease specialists found it common for younger, healthier people to contract it, walk by a more at-risk person, and pass it to them. That person could then become very sick. According to a study published on January 7th, 2021, roughly 59% of transmission occurs from asymptomatic carriers. That’s why health experts agree that temperature checks are not enough for detection.
We Learned That It Affects Children Differently
Children and adults experience COVID-19 differently. It’s common for children between ages 5 and 17 to have much lower infection rates. The current estimate is that children in that age bracket make up 10% of all confirmed cases, while children between 2 to 4 accounted for only 2% of confirmed cases. Virologists suspect that this has to do with angiotensin converting enzyme 2 (ACE2), a protein found in human cells. Children have less ACE2 than adults, which is a physiological difference. Since SARS-CoV-2 binds to ACE2 to enter cells, this explains the lower infection rate in children. This remains a hypothesis and there is still no definitive answer.
We Learned Misinformation Slowed The Fight
People will believe what they want to believe, be it legitimate or fake news. Unfortunately, there was a lot of misinformation surrounding COVID-19, in part because of the myriad unknown factors. Remember the joking bleach injections? Disinfectant consumption spiked the next day. Some people decided to drink turpentine and others thought masks didn’t help slow the spread. Unfortunately, medical misinformation is nothing new, but the media only made matters worse and more mainstream.
We Know It Is Not Going Away
The goal behind mass vaccinations is to achieve herd immunity. In order to reach that goal in the United States, 75-80% of Americans have to receive the vaccine. That doesn’t mean that COVID-19 goes away; rather, it simply becomes more manageable and doesn’t spread rapidly. The more people who get vaccinated worldwide, the more COVID-19 becomes a minor illness. Let’s not forget that it has already mutated, so new vaccines will most likely come in the future. The hope is that it will be more like the seasonal flu, as opposed to an illness that cripples the world.