We wish President Joe Biden a speedy and full recovery after he tested positive for COVID-19 and experienced mild symptoms, as announced Thursday.
Fortunately, the commander-in-chief has plenty going for him in his fight with COVID. Not only has he been twice vaccinated and twice boosted against the virus, he’s also on Paxlovid, an antiviral treatment with a 90% efficacy rate against severe illness.
Biden’s illness, however, is a reminder of the incessant persistence of COVID-19, a virus that’s been circulating and mutating repeatedly across the U.S. since 2020 — which, at its peak, killed thousands of Americans every day.
For nearly two years, the White House took great pains to protect the president against the virus even as people he interacted with on a daily basis got sick. He was vaccinated and boosted, yet Biden still became infected anyway.
The sad reality is that many Americans who have been vaccinated and boosted are still getting COVID-19. That’s not to say the vaccines don’t work; they most certainly do work, as the rates of hospitalizations and deaths are far, far, far lower than what they were before such remedies became available to the public.
But this virus just refuses to go away — no matter how tired we are of dealing with it, no matter how we want to “wish it out into the cornfield,” as in a famous “Twilight Zone” episode.
The BA.5 variant has launched another spike in New York City; the city’s Department of Health reported on Thursday a 7-day positivity rate of 14.5%. On average, health care professionals are diagnosing more than 4,000 new COVID cases every day.
Moreover, the city’s reporting a 7-day average of 105 COVID-related hospitalizations a day, but the death rate remains low, at 7 per day. Still, that’s no consolation to the families who are losing loved ones to the virus.
Even with the infection rates high, and a president sick, no public policy changes are on the horizon. Most pandemic-related restrictions are gone. Mask advisories merely suggest New Yorkers wear face coverings in public indoor settings; it’s no longer a mandate.
To state the obvious, our society as a whole has reached a point of accepted compromise with COVID; we can deal with it through vaccines, boosters and antiviral pills because the risk of severity is far lower than it once was.
The only thing that could upend that compromise would be if the virus mutated to the point where it became resistant to the remedies, forcing us back to square one. We hope and pray that never comes about.
The best case scenario is that COVID mutates itself into inertia, that one day we reach the point where almost all of us have had it and built up such immune defenses that the virus is incapable infecting anyone, or causing a sniffle.
For now, given our situation, we have to continue getting vaccinated, getting boosted, staying home and taking antivirals when sick — and hope for the best.