Black Friday, indeed. So far today the stock market is down 900 points (about 2.5%) on the news that a new, vaccine-resistant COVID-19 variant has emerged in South Africa. This news triggers lots of questions:
- Is this situation now permanent? Are we stuck with SARS-CoV-2 in one form or another for decades? (Yes, probably).
- Is the overly agile mutation ability of COVID-19 natural or (a frightening thought) designed by humans in the Wuhan labs?
- Given that we’re probably going to see many more variants, how many people will COVID-19 actually kill before we get back to some new balance? We’ve recorded five million deaths worldwide so far (probably low), so where will we end up? 10M? 15? The Black Death (bubonic plague) pandemic of the 14th century killed between 75 and 200 million people, so COVID still has a ways to go to become the deadliest ever.
- What will authorities and risk managers (governments and corporations) do in response? Will we need to wear masks in close quarters (like on airplanes) forever?
- Is there something unusual going on in South Africa, something that generated the new variant?
On the last question, the answer is yes, probably. South Africa’s vaccination rate is really low – 28% of the population has had one dose, 24% two doses. So their population is pretty much wide open for virus spread and mutation. A large rise in cases, if not a variant, is predictable.
Sadly, this news will probably just adds fuel to the anti-vaxxer fire, as one of their favorite arguments is that “you can still catch COVID after vaccination, so why bother”. Perhaps we should just rename the variants as a different disease.
And the timing of this event is pretty bad for yours truly. We’re about to leave on trips to Mexico, Argentina, Uruguay and Chile. On one hand I don’t want to over-react/panic, but on the other hand…yikes! Is international travel stupid at this moment?
And if you do travel, take your vitamin D! This NIH study showed that vitamin D deficient people are 80% more likely to catch COVID than those with sufficient vitamin D in their systems
All this will be in the back of my mind as I spend today watching sports – The Match, which should be an entertaining golf event, a UK basketball game (go Cats!), and the Duke-Gonzaga basketball game (go Zags!). There’s nothing I can do about this unsettling Black Friday news, so might as well be entertained.