Former boxer turned philosopher Mike Tyson once said, “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” You may have made some big plans for this Fall such as that massive human and marmot rave that you’ve been putting off for over a year, thinking for whatever reason that the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic is practically over. Well, mouth meet balls, spiky virus balls that is. To many of those Fall plans that you may have made, the Delta variant of the Covid-19 coronavirus is essentially saying, “oh, no you didn’t.”
If you haven’t heard the news because you’ve been wrapping the extra toilet paper that you have around your head and ears, the more contagious Delta variant of the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) has been spreading throughout the U.S. The number of new Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations has been surging over the past month. This came after a whole lot of premature relaxation of Covid-19 precautions this past Spring. The premature relaxation of social distancing and face mask use led to many people in the U.S. prematurely believing that the pandemic was somehow over and making premature plans for the Fall.
And now that premature relaxation has led to disappointment and a mess, as many premature releases may do. It’s also led to a whole set of memes representing what the Delta variant has done to Fall plans. For example, it looks like Grammy Award-winning singer Mariah Carey found her original Fall plans to be “vanishing,” so to speak:
Here’s a piece of writing from author Meena Harris:
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And take a peek at this one from an account that seems to share pictures from the Tv series Twin Peaks:
How about this one from a Twitter account that describes itself as “Men who love and support Nathan Fielder”:
The Delta variant has brought even more uncertainty to an uncertain situation. Academy Award-winning actress Viola Davis couldn’t quite decide what her Fall plans will look like now:
But not everyone is changing their Fall plans just yet:
All of this actually shouldn’t be that big a surprise. Even though no real public health experts had declared the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic over, this Spring people began ditching face masks as if they were soiled underwear. Social distancing disappeared like the song “Somebody That I Used to Know.” And folks began making plans for the Fall. Lots of plans.
But making plans for the Fall was sort of like booking a manicure appointment while your house is on fire. As long as the SARS-CoV-2 is still actively spreading widely and vaccination levels remain well below herd immunity thresholds, the immediate future will be unpredictable. How many times during horror movies have people said, “ok, let’s have sex now,” before they really made sure that the killer was truly vanquished?
On the flip side, this pandemic is not going to last forever. Take a look at what happened with the 1918 flu pandemic. As shown by a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website, this influenza pandemic began with an initial “herald” wave during the Spring of 1918. Then flu activity dropped for a while during the Summer of 1918. Next, the biggest surge occurred during the Fall of 1918 into the Winter of 1918-1919. Virus activity subsided again in the Summer of 1919 before picking up again one more time for the Fall of 1919 through the Winter of 1919-1920 before the pandemic finally ended in 1920, about three years after it started.
The 1968 the H3N2 influenza virus pandemic started a bit later in the year in July of 1968. Thus, there was not an initial Spring “herald” wave. This pandemic though also crossed three calendar years, going from 1968 to 1970.
Therefore, it wouldn’t be surprising for the current Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic to follow a similar pattern in the U.S., continuing from 2020 to 2022 and finally petering out in the Spring of 2022. The SARS-CoV-2 will continue to spread until herd immunity levels pass the thresholds needed to prevent its spread. Think of people as parking spots for the virus with the virus frantically driving around while trying to avoid peeing in its pants. As long there are enough empty parking spots, that is bodies to infect, the virus can keep going and going around. However, immunity either through vaccination or recovering from Covid-19 can block these parking spots. If the virus cannot find open parking spots in the limited time that it can survive outside someone’s body, the virus will run out of options.
Can’t wait until 2022? Then, convince more of the people around you to get fully vaccinated. That is really the only way to shorten the natural course of the pandemic. Waiting for enough people to get protection from natural immunity after infection will take a while and along the way cause lots of suffering and claim many more lives.
So far, it looks like the currently available Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccines will still offer reasonable protection against the Delta variant. The vaccines certainly are not perfect. Therefore, relying solely on the vaccine for protection can be like going outside wearing nothing but your underwear.
The one big variable is the emergence of new variants. Eventually a variant may emerge that is able to consistently get past the protection offered by the vaccine. As long as the virus keeps spreading, new variants will continue to emerge. In fact, every time the virus multiplies, it can make mistakes, sort of like a drunk person trying to photocopy his or her butt. These mistakes in replicating the virus’s genetic code lead to mutations, which result in new versions of the virus, otherwise known as variants. This is why it’s so important to slow the spread of the virus right now using other means along with vaccination such as face masks and social distancing. You want to minimize opportunities for the virus to reproduce and thus produce more variants.
So what should you do about Fall and Winter plans right now? Follow these principles:
- Anticipate that you’ll have to maintain Covid-19 precautions such as wearing face masks and social distancing: The pandemic is not over. Repeat, the pandemic is not over.
- Expect and prepare for more stringent vaccination requirements. The “let people do whatever the bleep they want to do” approach hasn’t exactly worked. It has shown that enough people will lie, cheat, and frankly not give a bleep about other people to keep everyone in danger. This makes it more difficult for businesses and other organizations not to enforce vaccination requirements. Otherwise, they may be at high risk for a Covid-19 outbreak.
- Take things day-by-day: If you can keep up with the Kardashians you can keep up with what’s happening with the pandemic. Adjust your day-to-day plans based on what you learn. Make sure that your sources are credible, though. If your sources begin with “and then my keys stuck to my forehead after the Covid-19 vaccine,” consider other sources instead.
- Avoid making any permanent plans: This is not the time to say, “we are getting married on November 1, National Calzone Day, otherwise it’s never happening.”
- Opt for flexible reservations and tickets: Treat non-refundable deposits like what you deposit in the toilet after a prune and bean enchilada. You may never see them again should virus activity get out of control.
- Delay travel and other plans if possible until the warmer months of 2022: Sure climate change may turn the Earth into a gigantic Hot Pocket. But it won’t happen in a year.
- Seek safer alternatives: Travel by car, bike, or foot instead of flying. Stay outdoors as much as you can.
- Shed specific expectations: Coping and even thriving during this pandemic means setting aside what you could have been doing or should be doing. Alison Escalante, MD, who writes for Forbes and Psychology Toda, has warned about suffering the Should Storm, which is worrying too much about what you “should” be doing based in big part on others’ expectations. This can happen during the pandemic too, where you may feel FOMO, a “fear of missing out” or FONCUIL, a “fear of not catching up in life,” or FONDUE, a “fear of not doing the usual expectations,” whatever “usual” actually means. It can be bad to feel fondue, especially when others don’t want your hands in what they eat. All of this can prompt you into premature relaxation.
- Be adaptable: Adversity can often create opportunity. For example, Zoom can help you get to know others in a way that shouting in a restaurant won’t. You may find yourself engaged in conversations that you never thought that you’d have about tiaras, Hello Kitty, unitards, hot dogs, and exponentialism, not exactly in that order. Understand that life can change on a dime or even a little bit of dogecoin.
- Focus on what you can be doing now, given the circumstances: You can’t change the past without a time machine or a lot of marijuana. You can’t predict the future either. Instead, focus on the here and now.
In some ways, the pandemic is a reminder that we all have much less control of our own lives than we imagine. You never know what may happen for sure the next month, the next week, or the next day. In fact, it may not even be clear what will happen the next hour, even though there’s a high probability that avocados will be involved. You can be going about your regular daily business when something occurs that blows you or your plans away. For example, you may think that you have this what is dinner and what is dessert thing figured out when someone send you a picture of a hot dog pie, such as this:
Not a hot dog and an apple pie. Not a hot person next to a pie and a dog. But a hot dog in a pie crust. And suddenly you and your world are no longer the same ever again.