Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Next Year, Immune

There is a famous line at the end of the Jewish Passover Seder, Next year in Jerusalem. While some interpret the phrase literally, to most it means that next year the community will be together and stronger, no matter where in the world everyone is.

As the current COVID-19 pandemic rages out of control, there are some signs of hope. Two vaccines have been approved and are being rolled out across the country and the world. While I am envious of friends who are posting pictures of themselves getting their first injection on social media, I am content to wait my turn in line, as I am not a frontline clinician or other frontline worker, nor do I have co-existing medical conditions that would put me at higher risk for complications if I were to get infected with SARS-CoV-2. I will wait my turn, although I will show up in a heartbeat when my number is called, which I anticipate will be in the spring or summer of 2021.

In the meantime, while we are all waiting to get our vaccine shots, there are other things we can and should be doing, such as wearing masks and social distancing. I have lent my endorsement to another effort, signing my name on to a letter calling for the development of cheap, rapid, and frequently administered antigen tests. The idea of these tests is that if we all test frequently, we can learn if we are infectious and self-quarantine. These tests do not have same sensitivity and specificity as PCR tests, but they are much faster and cheaper, and tend to be positive when one is actively infectious. If we all used these simple paper-strip tests a couple times a week, and just as importantly, self-quarantined when positive, we could keep the virus at bay until we all have herd immunity from the vaccine.

Despite this being one of most challenging years in the history of many of our lives, I look to the future with an optimistic eye. The toll of COVID-19 has been devastating, not only to those who have perished but also the devastated economy and disruption of education, especially for children. But in the end, science will prevail and, over time, the worst of the pandemic will be behind us.

I feel fortunately in having always lived a relatively virtual work life, as noted in this blog last year, and I have had little trouble staying productive in the pandemic. But that does not mean that I miss going into the office, or attending conferences and other events. I am fortunate enough to have a lifetime of friends and colleagues, and keeping in touch with them by social media, videoconferencing, and the like has been easy. I am sure it is different for those without such a long time to build interpersonal bonds, such as those earlier in their careers.

Thus I do look forward to having immunity to SARS-CoV-2, or at least the COVID-19 disease that it causes. I look forward to seeing my family, friends, and colleagues again, and getting to once again visit the world. Travel will likely be different on the other side, not only due to the pandemic but also due to climate change, but I am confident I will again visit so many wonderful people and places around the world.

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