Y ou know this trajectory by now: After a slow build followed by a sharp upward spike in the infection curve to get to 1,000,000 cases on the planet, the curve basically flattened on the way to Wednesday’s milestone of five million cases. It wasn’t quite flat, however. This teeter totter tipped up slightly from one to four million, gaining speed and spreading faster. But more recently things shifted, the teeter totter angled slightly the other way, COVID-19 slowed down on its global journey from four to five million patients.
If it’s possible to say anything involving a million cases of a stupid deadly disease could be good news, this is good news. Half a year in, from the first case in November to now, we’ll take it.
There’s a risk of getting too optimistic about one positive data point. Approaching four million cases the infection rate was about 90,000 diagnoses per day; coming up on five million, it’s been around 83,000. That’s still a lot of cases. C19 hasn’t stopped, and it could certainly speed up again. But hey, maybe it peaked. Maybe this downward momentum will build. Maybe it’s the start of a trend. There’s also a risk to having no optimism, so let’s hope for the best.
We'll know where we stand soon enough. The next million-case data point will come at the beginning of June. Or if the virus keeps slowing down, a little later.
Robert Strang, Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health, would caution about letting optimism turn into complacency. The province’s infection rate has dropped off a cliff, the late-May weather is threatening to get nice, the lockdown is loosening. Thanks to permission to make a double bubble, not only can you leave the house to go to the beach, but you can go into someone else’s house when you get back. We made it through the first COVID wave, we are talking about reopening the economy in early June, we are ripe for complacency.
At the province’s coronavirus briefing Wednesday—NS reporting 1,045 cases as the world passed 5,000,000—Strang said he’s "frustrated" by people who think the disease is done. "Wave one is coming to an end," he said. "That’s very different than 'the pandemic is over.'"
At another point he simply said, "We're not going back."
Limiting large gatherings and maintaining physical distance from most people are things we’re just going to do from now on, like wearing seatbelts and cooking hamburger completely. "Until we have high levels of immunity in the population, we have to stay vigilant in fighting this virus," Strang said. "We need to think about how we live with COVID-19."
Travel is something else Strang says has changed for the foreseeable future. "The virus is spread around, whether it's locally or globally, by people moving. So a part of our new normal is how we actually limit non-essential travel, whether at an international global level or at a local community level.
"Closer to home is part of our new normal."