Today represents the first anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic. Yes, it was around for a few months before this, but many of us heard the same thing about SARS and MERS, ironically, both related coronaviruses, Ebola, Zika, and other diseases over the past few decades. I think many of us just sighed, shrugged our shoulders, and repeated the mantra that the flu killed more people.
In the days that led up to March 11, 2020, I think we were becoming much warier, if not concerned. A few counties in California, probably the first in the USA, decided to shut down and limit gatherings to no more than 1000 people. Yes, 1000 people. Today, we think that’s outrageous and frightening.
The COVID-19 anniversary – my Day 1
On March 11, 2020, a high-profile athlete, Rudy Gobert of the professional basketball team, the Utah Jazz, was diagnosed with COVID-19 (we actually hadn’t regularly called it that then, mostly we called it the novel coronavirus). Within a few minutes, the NBA decided to shut down its season, which snowballed to other sports across the world.
And within a few hours of that, California ordered all citizens to stay at home with traffic on the notorious freeways of Los Angeles dropping to something not seen by anyone alive. From that day, the world was turn upside down. New York, Italy, Spain, and many other areas experienced massive local outbreaks that killed thousands of people.
Back on March 11, there were “only” six deaths were reported from the disease. On the first anniversary of COVID-19, March 10, 2021, there were 859 cases. Worldwide, over 2.6 million have died of the disease, with over 540,000 in the USA.
Of course, the pandemic disrupted all of our lives in so many ways. Many of us lost loved ones. Many caught the disease and are still hurting. Many of us have children who have lost a year of education.
I never contracted the disease, partially because I did everything I could to avoid others. I wore a mask from day one (well maybe day seven, since I had to have a physician send me some, since I could find any). I have yet to be vaccinated, because I am further down the priority list in the USA. But I should have it soon, and I’ll post about it here.
This article is going to be my COVID-19 first-anniversary review – what I got really wrong, and what I got kind of right.
COVID-19 first anniversary – what I got wrong
Let me start with something because people often think that science always gets things wrong. Scientific knowledge is always provisional – a scientific principle or consensus is not dogma, like a religion, it changes as evidence accumulates.
I often write that the safety and effectiveness vaccines are settled science. That doesn’t mean that science is done and we all go to the local pub and celebrate. It means that the accumulated evidence supports the settled science. To unsettle that science, it takes more than rhetoric, anecdotes, and outright misinformation – it requires published scientific evidence.
On March 11, 2020, what I knew about the novel coronavirus was almost nothing. But I wasn’t alone, what was known even by experts at the CDC and WHO was barely more than I knew. And let’s set aside the political pressures on both of those prestigious institutions, they just didn’t have any information at all.
Thus, what I wrote one year ago makes me laugh, because we just weren’t sure.
That’s my first article about COVID-19, a few weeks before we called it COVID-19. In the article, I destroyed some of the ludicrous myths about the disease including being a bioweapon.
Sadly, I dismissed the COVID-19 threat and showed how the flu was much more dangerous. Well, the flu is still dangerous, but ironically, all of the public health measures have actually reduced the flu outbreaks this year to almost negligible levels.
But I got other things For example, although I didn’t write about it here, I was telling friends and random strangers online that wearing a mask was silly. Why? Because I thought that the only masks that would work were well-fitted surgical masks.
But once the science became clear, I became pro-mask. Of course, scientists who are much smarter than I’ll ever be stated that masks were critical to stopping this pandemic.
However, what I really got wrong, at least early on, was how fast we could get vaccines. I thought that it would take years to get a COVID-19 vaccine – the first doses would arrive in 2024-25. Yeah, I was wrong, and so far, the Pfizer, Moderna, and JNJ vaccines are available in the USA with the AstraZeneca and Novavax vaccines probably becoming available in the next couple of months. In other words, we got vaccines within 12 months from the day the pandemic “started” in the USA.
This doesn’t mean the vaccines were rushed, ignoring safety and effectiveness. These vaccines are demonstrably safe, as shown in huge clinical trials with tens of thousands of participants. And the FDA has shown that these clinical trials were properly done far exceeding the standards of most vaccine clinical trials.
I did get many things right, from a year ago, about this pandemic, most of it garbage pushed by pseudoscientific quacks:
- Hydroxychloroquine does not work.
- Let me repeat that – hydroxychloroquine does not work.
- Joe Mercola is a quack who was cited by the FDA.
- Other grifters also cited by the FDA.
- COVID-19 quackery.
- You can’t boost your immune system against COVID-19 without vaccines.
- More COVID-19 quackery.
- Oleander does not work.
Summary, the tl;dr version
Most of us feel like March 2020 existed in some other dimension many years in the past. It does not feel like only 12 months have passed since then. But it has, and now we’re at the first anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Back then (and still today), scientific research flies by at warp speed. There are over 13,000 COVID-19 articles available to read on the preprint server – even though only a handful have eventually undergone peer-review, it is still a treasure trove of research into the disease. No one can read that many articles.
I’m happy I was wrong about the speed of vaccine development. And I am convinced that they are safe.
I am somewhat concerned about the long-term effectiveness of the vaccine because the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 seems to have a high mutation rate. So, eventually, we might have to have an annual vaccine like the flu. But these new vaccines can be quickly modified to provide us with protection against the disease.
Sadly, over the past year we have lost over 540,000 Americans and another 2.2 million across the world. There were things we could have done to prevent those deaths, but our feckless leader, Donald Trump, didn’t do anything right. But now we have the vaccine, and across the developed world, we might be protected soon. And hopefully, vaccines will be shipped in huge quantities to lesser developed regions so that they are protected too.