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Delta may be peaking but we're in a 21st century cold war

Delta may be peaking but we're in a 21st century cold war

Posted: Sep 13, 2021 2:01 PM
Updated: Sep 13, 2021 2:01 PM

Just when it seemed that the latest surge of the Covid-19 pandemic might overwhelm the United States, things have begun to improve.

After two months of dramatically rising cases, the rolling 7-day average of new daily cases in the US is trending down, decreasing from about 165,000 at the end of August to less than 125,000 or so now. Even better, the decrease in cases is happening in more than a dozen states.

That's the good news. The bad news is that Covid-19 related deaths -- known to lag several weeks after cases -- have not yet decreased. And for many states, having a "stable" infection rate is to remain in an untenable, if not worsening, situation: In virtually half the states, the rate of positive diagnostic test results is still above 10%, with Idaho (39.4%), Iowa (36.2%) and Kansas (31.5%) leading the way. By way of comparison, Massachusetts (2.3%), California (2.9%) and New York (3.2%) sit among the very bottom, with rates approaching what might allow safe resumption of a normal-ish life.

It remains quite uncertain whether the recent decline in new infections will be sustained. After all, the impact of countless unmasked elementary school kids returning to in-person classrooms has yet to be fully experienced. But if we are indeed at a moment when the Delta variant is beginning to fizzle, at least a little bit, what does that mean for everyday life? Are we finally (almost) in the clear?

Of course not. If we have learned anything -- and it's debatable whether we have -- it is that the Covid-19 pandemic isn't going to miraculously disappear. We jumped the gun in the summer of 2020 by celebrating what looked like a maybe-this-is-ending-soon moment before the emergence of the Alpha or B.117 variant. We did it again this spring before the Delta variant galloped from shore to shore, and we now appear to be getting itchy again to call the whole thing off.

As with the previous claims of victory based on a few weeks of improvement, celebrating any end of the pandemic surely is a mistake. We have new variants to worry about, immunity possibly waning in the elderly, the cruel recalcitrance of those refusing vaccination, the uneven global distribution of the vaccine and roughly 50 million children in the US who aren't even eligible for vaccine yet.

But besides the uncertainty that the pandemic is indeed coming under control, any pronouncement of a "victory" is doomed for a different reason: What we think of as military triumph is the wrong metaphor for a pandemic. No matter what's ahead, it is not Waterloo or Gettysburg or the storming of Omaha Beach. This may be a war, but there won't be a decisive, resounding victory.

Rather, the coming months -- if things go well -- will be increasingly boring and altogether lacking in the dramatic. Our weeks will be filled with an ebb and flow of progress and setbacks, hope and disappointment, darkness and light.

As such, the challenge we face with the Covid-19 pandemic resembles not a headline-screaming "hot" war but the Cold War of the 20th century. Covid-19, like our Cold War adversary, is ubiquitous but invisible and unpredictable, adding to its sense of danger. Rumors and threats, anxiety-provoking skirmishes and occasional razor's edge confrontation (think Bay of Pigs and the Delta variant) are the rule of the day, not bombs and bullets.

Much of the Cold War vocabulary is also useful in describing our strategy against Covid-19: deterrence, containment, and the fear that failure to do so could lead to a world-shifting, domino-like chain reaction. Likewise, the ongoing pressure to assure that our Covid-19 vaccine is aimed at the most prevalent variant of the moment mimics the arms race, where an escalation of the virus is followed by an escalation of science, which is followed by an escalation of the virus and then an escalation of science, and on and on.

While similarities between the Cold War and our ongoing struggle with Covid-19 abound, there is a key difference that is causing the US trouble right now: the reality-based community must work closely with a large minority of Americans for whom Covid-19 is not a health threat but a hoax, or perhaps a real disease that is mild and doesn't warrant the vaccine that conspiracy theorists suspect might turn your forehead into a magnet.

Unfortunately, between these two groups -- those who acknowledge reality and those who continue to float along on the road to Oz -- there can be no détente, no perestroika and surely no glasnost.

So what do we make of this glimpse of hope that we might be gaining the upper hand over the Delta variant? Accept it for what it is: a small step forward in a long, cold war -- and very unlikely to be the final battle.

The-CNN-Wire
™ & © 2021 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia Company. All rights reserved.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 473413

Reported Deaths: 9214
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison32339474
Hinds30703575
DeSoto29814346
Jackson23263336
Rankin21111358
Lee14600217
Madison14043265
Jones13165218
Forrest12953233
Lauderdale11418297
Lowndes10249175
Lamar10048128
Pearl River8737209
Lafayette8078136
Hancock7324111
Washington6837147
Oktibbeha6820118
Neshoba6404201
Monroe6372158
Warren6326161
Pontotoc610393
Panola6071124
Bolivar6016143
Marshall5972118
Union564086
Pike5491133
Lincoln5232130
Alcorn520888
George457868
Scott451993
Leflore4401140
Prentiss437276
Itawamba436198
Tippah436180
Simpson4268111
Copiah425586
Wayne424863
Tate4234100
Adams4219114
Yazoo415886
Sunflower4088104
Covington407391
Marion4032100
Leake393185
Coahoma388198
Newton364474
Grenada3517101
Stone345657
Tishomingo324888
Attala321185
Jasper310262
Winston300391
Clay288273
Chickasaw282164
Clarke277487
Calhoun259739
Holmes259485
Smith243947
Yalobusha216747
Tallahatchie215649
Walthall205557
Greene204045
Lawrence203831
Perry196453
Amite193751
Webster191941
Noxubee174538
Montgomery169853
Jefferson Davis165541
Carroll159937
Tunica148434
Benton139433
Kemper137439
Claiborne125634
Choctaw124925
Humphreys123337
Franklin115227
Quitman101825
Wilkinson99835
Jefferson86632
Sharkey62120
Issaquena1916
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 768301

Reported Deaths: 13209
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1093481727
Mobile699891179
Madison48418589
Baldwin35707452
Shelby35193291
Tuscaloosa33029512
Montgomery32582664
Lee21908204
Calhoun20140377
Morgan19351318
Etowah18583433
Marshall17272259
Houston16139353
St. Clair14956276
Limestone14129180
Cullman14069235
Elmore14010245
Lauderdale13128272
Talladega12399215
DeKalb11890229
Walker10231312
Autauga9493127
Blount9418149
Jackson9115136
Coffee8646161
Colbert8324169
Dale8284159
Escambia6456106
Tallapoosa6394168
Covington6313157
Chilton6243133
Russell591654
Franklin563597
Chambers5240132
Marion4628115
Dallas4626178
Clarke451471
Pike450091
Geneva4252106
Winston407987
Lawrence4046102
Bibb396177
Barbour338968
Marengo320981
Monroe311547
Butler309783
Pickens298769
Randolph294055
Henry293856
Hale286081
Cherokee279850
Fayette272271
Washington243545
Crenshaw232265
Clay221561
Macon214454
Cleburne209748
Lamar187839
Conecuh177139
Lowndes169056
Coosa163631
Wilcox154335
Bullock147142
Perry134235
Sumter123335
Greene119241
Choctaw72325
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Tupelo
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Hi: 85° Lo: 72°
Feels Like: 76°
Columbus
Cloudy
75° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 73°
Feels Like: 75°
Oxford
Partly Cloudy
73° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 68°
Feels Like: 73°
Starkville
Cloudy
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Feels Like: 75°
Occasional areas of rain and some scattered thunderstorms will be in store for most of the weekend. However, good news by later sections of next week, as cooler and drier air will work its way into our weather forecast.
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