Don’t slack off now!

I know, we’ve got vaccines now, and over 90 million people, about 35% of the US population, have been vaccinated. The rates of infection and death have been generally declining, so people are getting cocky and dropping their guard. But it’s not over yet.

A year after becoming a global epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic, New York and New Jersey are back atop the list of U.S. states with the highest rates of infection.

Even as the vaccination campaign has ramped up, the number of new infections in New Jersey has crept up by 37% in a little more than a month, to about 23,600 every seven days. About 50,000 people per week in New York are testing positive for the virus, a number that hasn’t much changed since mid-February.

The current infection rates are higher than they were in March of last year, when we were so worried that we went into lockdown. Well, some of us, anyway — too many people ignored the warnings and we had a massive spike in December/January. I guess we’re forgetting that, too, and just getting used to the ongoing risk.

Hey, state governors: when the infections decline, that’s a sign that your current policies are working. It doesn’t mean it’s time to open up all the bars and slow dance with strangers. When you go golfing, do you stop the club the instant you hit the ball, or do you follow through? Stay the course, everyone, for at least a few months more.

Experts worry the public is getting the message that increased vaccination means the state is in the clear, even though only a fraction of the public has completed a full course. Vaccines lessen the risk of severe illness or death from COVID-19, but scientists are still studying how well they prevent the spread of the virus.

“To allow larger groups to gather, to give the message to the public that we’re over the worst and that we can go back to normal is a mistake,” Farber said.

Stony Brook University professor and neuroepidemiologist Sean Clouston said growth in new cases is concentrated in younger people, who can’t get vaccinated in New York unless they have specific health conditions or certain jobs. He said their infection rates could drop once they’re eligible, too.

My grandkids are not vaccinated yet, so I’m going to take it personally if you won’t act responsibly. Also, you just know there are a significant number of demented dingleberries who are going to refuse the vaccination no matter what, and they’re going to lurk among our citizenry as a reservoir of disease.


  1. says

    “This parachute has slowed my descent-rate enough that I can land safely — great! I’m going to take it off now, because it’s really uncomfortable.”

  2. Reginald Selkirk says

    The rates of infection and death have been generally declining

    Over the winter, rates went from bad to horrible, and now they are back down to bad.

    Well, some of us, anyway — too many people ignored the warnings and we had a massive spike in December/January.

    You are too generous. Not only did some people, who claim to be ‘conservatives’ (but what are they conserving?) ignore medical advice, they actively defied it.

  3. billseymour says

    I got my second Pfizer jab a bit over two weeks ago, so if I’m not fully protected from the disease yet, I’m close.

    But, IIUC, I’m not protected from getting a load of the virus that I could potentially spread to others.  I definitely need to keep wearing my mask and maintaining social distance* until the folks who actually know what they’re talking about say that we’ve achieved herd immunity.

    By the way, Mike the Mad Biologist has a post suggesting that what we should really worry about, and doesn’t get reported, is prevalence.

    *I’m an old fart who hasn’t yet gotten used to the verb, to social distance. 8-)

  4. Allison says

    I don’t know about New Jersey, but the vaccine rollout in New York has been an utter mess.

    For one thing, although the state government had at least 6 months to set things up, they apparently didn’t even start planning (if you can call what they’re doing now “planning”) until the vaccines actually showed up, and then they started scrambling, with no coordination.

    For another, there are something like a half-dozen entities vaccinating people, and the State has given them different eligibility rules, which are constantly changing — for instance, hospital workers had to get their vaccination from their hospital, etc., and pharmacies (mainly CVS and Walgreens) could only vaccinate people over 75, later 65. (I don’t remember who was handling people with health conditions.) And each had its own system for booking appointments, mostly on-line (thus bypassing people who don’t have computers), and most of the time, they reported being fully booked. There were apparently various ways to get appointments even from “fully booked” places, or else you had to know when a particular site or source would add appointments and jump in right away.

  5. Allison says

    I also notice nobody seems to be talking about what will happen in the long range. It’s obvious that COVID will never be eliminated, only managed.

    I suspect it will be a lot like influenza, with new variants coming out all the time, so they’ll need to come out with new vaccines at least annually. And I suspect we’ll never have more than around a half of the population vaccinated at any time (that’s the vaccination rate for influenza), so there will always be a large reservoir of infections. And, like influenza, we’ll have something 10,000 to 100,000 deaths every year in the USA alone pretty much in perpetuity.

    So, like influenza, gun deaths, and traffic deaths, people will just assume that COVID deaths are inevitable and nothing can be done about them. No longer newsworthy.

  6. acroyear says

    yeah – Mike the Mad was saying the same thing yesterday – that people are acting irresponsibly while prevalence is still high, much higher than November 1st (which was the start of the rise that peaked in January as everybody had moved to indoor practices too much because it was too cold to stay outside for long). And my concern was much like yours: kids aren’t vaccinated yet and can’t be. So they’re still very much at risk so long as there is still high prevalence no matter how many of us around them are vaccinated.

    We really want to do things like see family and friends out of state…but the numbers are still too high and even with vaccinations, i’m not seeing them drop. Hell, NYC just got a spike of 20,000 cases in a day (unless that was a data entry mistake), and even without that spike, they’re at 3 times the level they were at in October.

    Finally, I have a hypothesis (and fear) that B117 doesn’t seem to care about Covid’s prior reputation for not making kids actually show symptoms of being sick. Students are testing positive more often now, just as the county started packing them tighter following the CDC’s new “3 foot” rule. The CDC is always a touch behind – what made sense for the variants we had before may not be valid with the UK one which seems to be out-pacing the vaccine in spread.

  7. dodecapode says

    I live in a country that also fucked up the pandemic response pretty badly (the UK), but at least so far we seem to be getting the vaccination part right. We’ve been working our way through the groups with higher age/health-based risk factors and seem to have covered a much larger fraction of the population than the US has.

    But now I’m hearing from people I know in the US who are younger than me (I’m 38) with no particular risk factors saying they’ve been vaccinated. Has it just devolved into a “whoever has the cash gets the jump the queue” scenario over there, or are efforts just not being made to prioritise at-risk groups?

    In the UK it looks like the vaccination programme is about to depart from rationality as we move into the various age brackets for those under 50. No attempt seems to be being made to prioritise people who are at risk for reasons other than age. People in key frontline roles (e.g. teachers, shop workers) or those from ethnic groups with higher risk should definitely be ahead of me in the queue. I’m a fairly healthy white guy with a job that can be done entirely from home.

    I guess I can always just avoid making an appointment until I feel like enough of the rest of the population has had a chance to get vaccinated.

  8. raven says

    I’ve been saying the same thing as PZ.
    It’s obvious.
    Who wants to be the last American to die from Covid-19 virus?

    Most of us have made it this far. It’s been a year of dodging death and permanent disability.
    If we can make it a few more months and get vaccinated, then we are home free.
    This isn’t the time to slack off.

  9. raven says

    @ Allison 5

    I also notice nobody seems to be talking about what will happen in the long range. It’s obvious that COVID will never be eliminated, only managed.

    A lot of people are talking about it, especially the scientists who have to deal with this pandemic.

    Yeah, Covid-19 virus will never go away. It is too well adapted and too established in the human population to do that.
    The common cold isn’t a good model. It’s going to be more like Influenza. Only worse than Influenza since Covid-19 is more contagious and more virulent. It attacks a lot of organ systems notably lungs, heart, and brain.

  10. hemidactylus says

    Reckless goon DeSantis is photo-opping popup vax sites, yet letting our state become a petri dish for variants. So what happens when the vaccines lose effectiveness because these stupid plague rats? Plus he’s threatening to sue the feds to reopen the precious cruise industry (floating portable toilets) and calling the feds antivaxxers. What an asshole.

    “DeSantis said, with COVID-19 vaccine supplies increasing, he expects that virtually any adult who wants a vaccine will be able to receive one by the end of June. And he questioned whether the CDC’s hesitation to streamline the return to cruising means that “they’re basically anti-vaxxers” who don’t believe the vaccine works.”

    Sacrifice people’s wellbeing to an industry.

  11. raven says

    The future of the Covid-19 virus is contingent, meaning that it depends on what we humans do now.

    This virus like all of them is evolving. In general, rapid spread selects for virulence and slow spread selects for attenuation.
    Right now we are in a rapid spread environment and more transmissable and more pathogenic virus variants are arising and taking over.
    The next wave may well be antigen escape variants that the current vaccine doesn’t see. This isn’t for sure since this hasn’t been a problem for viruses like measles, polio, and chickenpox so far. We just have to wait and see on this.

    To really keep Covid-19 down as much as possible, we have to vaccinate the entire world. Otherwise the virus will do what it is doing in Brazil. Spread wildly in poor countries and keep on getting more and more transmissable and virulent. And those more dangerous variants are one plane ride away from the USA.
    I keep seeing news stories such as about the “South African variant” showing up in a small town in the middle of nowhere, USA.

  12. birgerjohansson says

    Expert: “Don’t slack off!”
    MAGA hat: “Let’s own the libruls!” (takes off mask)

  13. birgerjohansson says

    BTW, than you so much Boris Johnson for using your population as a Petri disc to create the new, more easily spread variant that is taking over worldwide. It is a really cute version of “Rule Brittannia”.

  14. says

    Last I checked it was reported 10% were vaccinated her in Austin Texas.
    One teacher friend who is in a school district with in person classes told me one student is in quarantine for the fourth time.

  15. sophiab says

    Oh man. This “we will have covid forever more but its fine” attitude pisses me off no end.

    From country that killed it, and life is back to normal. It could’ve been that way in most rich countries, it was political decisions that failed (poor countries I understand are in a much different position). But instead they became reservoirs of infection, screwing up some poor countries that had been winning (e.g. Sri Lanka)

    Then they exposed a bunch of carrier animals, such as ferrets, to the virus, much like America did with Prarie dogs for plague in the early 1900s.

    Vaccines make it easier to kill things off. Just takes a fucking smidgen of effort. Do that.

  16. raven says

    Vaccines make it easier to kill things off. Just takes a fucking smidgen of effort. Do that.

    Nice idea but not very realistic.
    We’ve been battling viral diseases for centuries.
    And how many have we driven to extinction?
    Smallpox and Rinderpest. Both had properties that made them vulnerable to complete elimination.

    Polio should have been easy. No animal reservoir, good immunity from one infection, and cheap and effective oral vaccines. We’ve been trying worldwide since 1985. It’s been 36 years and we aren’t there yet.
    Covid-19 virus has properties that will make complete eradication more difficult than anything we’ve ever done before.

    Oh man. This “we will have covid forever more but its fine” attitude pisses me off no end.

    I get ticked off by delusional trolls who show up and act out imaginary conversations in their heads.
    Who said having another lethal and disabling new disease running around is fine?
    No one but the fictional people in your head.
    A few of my friends have died from Covid-19 virus and more are seriously permanently disabled. 550,000 of my fellow citizens have also died from it.
    Not that isn’t fine.

  17. hemidactylus says

    Florida is winning the race to the bottom:

    “The vast majority of variant cases in Florida, as well as the U.S. in general, came from the B.1.1.7 strain, first seen in the United Kingdom.

    Florida also experienced a doubling of P.1, a variant initially recorded in Brazil, for a total of 42 cases.”


    “Florida has relatively lax coronavirus restrictions, which have sent tourists and spring breakers from around the nation flocking to the Sunshine State. Notably, a surge of spring breakers descended on Miami in recent weeks, causing Democratic Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber to issue a state of emergency.”

    I usually don’t like to see cops unleash tear gas on a crowd…

  18. JustaTech says

    True that we haven’t eliminated polio (thanks, Taliban and the CIA!). But we’re really close. Wild variant 2 has been eliminated from the wild, which means that they were able to re-formulate the oral vaccine to be safer (type 2 was more likely to revert to the dangerous type and give kids polio).

    When you think about it, smallpox had a vaccine for the longest time, it was obvious if you’d been vaccinated (the scar) and smallpox itself is a very unsubtle disease (most of the time). The kind of thing that the average person could diagnose. That’s why the world managed to kill it.

    And we are really close on other diseases, like polio and measles. The problem now is a combination of political/social willpower, funding, and religious leaders hating on vaccines. These are all people problems, which makes them the hardest to solve.

  19. sophiab says

    Sorry, that was more aggressive than the situation warranted.
    If I take a deep breath my point is that sure we gave achieved eradication on one virus: smallpox

    But we have eliminated a bunch more. Its a more local concept, so its harder, but basically in many countries outbreaks are killed off. This list includes, sometimes depending on country: smallpox, polio, measles, sars, mers, zika*, plague, anthrax … I’m sure im forgetting some

    It doesn’t seem impossible to add cv19 to that, right?

    *zika, or at least symptomatic zika was super weird, and seems to have mostly died out by itself

  20. raven says


    Yeah, cause SARS is obviously running rampant…

    Fallacy of false equivalence.
    I missed where SARS has so far caused 127 million cases worldwide. Today there were 614,489 new cases of Covid-19. There were in total 8,098 cases of SARS.
    You are making an apples to oranges comparison.

    Sorry, that was more aggressive than the situation warranted.

    Who cares. You’ve already vaporized your credibility. You would be ahead of the game if you threatened to pray for us and started babbling on about UFO aliens at the CDC.

    You’ve moved the goal posts a few miles too now.
    Sure, we have locally eliminated more or less all diseases for some times in some places. That is what they do, they have outbreaks and epidemics and come and go. Nothing new about that and we’ve all lived with it since we were born.
    I’m sure this latest outbreak of Covid-19 will dampen down sooner or later. Everyone expects that.
    And, like virtually all the diseases we deal with, it will be back sooner or later.
    There is a huge difference between temporarily eliminating a disease that comes back routinely and driving a disease to extinction.

  21. hemidactylus says

    @22- robertbaden
    Plague, being bacterial, is treatable if caught in time. Rodents may also carry hantavirus, which seemed scary to me in the 90s, but never materialized as a huge thing. Concerning if you are a mammalogist working with certain wild rodents perhaps. Not a fun group of viruses but not exactly running roughshod through the US population: