COVID Crystal Ball

Predictions for the end of the pandemic

The real epidemic is epistemic. We’re living through an information schism. I have a lot more to say on this based on my winter reading, but in the meantime I’d like to call a few shots for the next six months.

One way to verify whether something is true or not is whether or not, well, it ends up being true. Do predictions come to pass? Are the people you are relying on to figure out what is real in the world good at anticipating the future? When people are constantly wrong about the future, we may want to question their understanding of the present.

Looking back

Since we don’t know the future yet, it’s helpful to look to the past.

There have been some spectacularly inaccurate estimates that were widely shared among those engaged in conspiracy thinking. Take Richard Epstein’s March/April 2020 prediction of 500 US deaths from COVID-19. Actually, he meant 5,000. Or maybe 50,000. At any rate, the US has lost over 500,000 people to COVID-19. Or in the UK, take Michael Yeadon’s bold statement in October 2020 that the pandemic was “effectively over.” More people have died from COVID-19 in the UK after he said that than before.

I recall in the Fall as the second wave was growing in Ontario the predictable pattern of denial. The numbers aren’t rising, we’re just doing more tests. Okay, the numbers are rising, but the test positivity rate is what really matters. Okay, test positivity is up, but hospitalizations aren’t increasing. Hospitalizations are increasing, but ICU admissions are low. ICU admissions are high, but… and on and on. The vaccine would be mandatory. The variants won’t change anything. It’ll take years to get a vaccine approved. The pandemic will disappear since Joe Biden won (or, in their view, stole) the election. The pandemic will disappear once Joe Biden is inaugurated. (Joe Biden won’t win the election. Joe Biden didn’t win the election. The results will be overturned on December 18. The results will be overturned on January 6. Joe Biden won’t be inaugurated.)

Meanwhile, I’m pretty happy with my batting average.

I’ve predicted most of what’s happened in Ontario over the past 6-9 months. I posted about the rising second wave in September and October, and growing in December. I posted about the ticking time bomb of the variants on January 1. Mid-January, I predicted 1-2 months of Ontario’s first Stay at Home order. I posted about the premature reopening in February that would lead to a third wave by April, and the insufficient half measures on April 1 that would require new measures within weeks. Mid-April I predicted 1 to 2 months of the second Stay at Home order — which is currently set to expire on June 2. (I also posted about fanatical Christian Trumpism that was heading towards violence on December 14.)

This is not because I have any special insight or inside track. It’s because of who I trust and how I verify information. These are not really my predictions. I just go with whatever people like John Michael McGrath, Zeynep Tufekci, and Dr. de Villa are saying.

Looking forward

I’ve heard fears expressed that the pandemic will never end, that this is a communist power grab from Doug Ford and Jason Kenney, and with The Great Reset, the new normal, and the Great Purge / digital gulags, our police state has just begun and we can expect to lose more and more freedoms as Christians are targeted for persecution in sanctuaries and on social media and unless we unite in non-compliance the government will just keep inventing new reasons to draw out this so-called “pandemic.”

Me? I’m going stay on this side of the information schism and go with what the people who have any proven track record are saying. Here’s what I’m calling:

  • The peak of the pandemic in Ontario has passed
  • Although we are currently under the most restrictive public health measures we’ve seen so far, things will change dramatically over the next month
  • Ontario will announce a plan to incrementally reopen in a way that we haven’t seen since the start of the pandemic
  • Through June, we’ll see the most severe public health measures lift (including the most severe restrictions on worship)
  • Around July/August, we’ll see a relaxing of public health measures that breaks new ground for reopening, especially for outdoor gatherings
  • This Fall, we’ll see further reopening and a return to indoor activities, like universities returning to some in person classes, movie theatres and concert halls beginning to reopen (perhaps with some public health measures in place). Public health restrictions on worship (e.g. capacity limits beyond the fire code) will be phased out by the end of 2021 (or first half of 2022 latest).
  • Canadian Thanksgiving may be the first normal holiday we’ve had since Christmas 2019. Christmas will certainly be normal — by which I mean gathering with extended family won’t be contrary to public health guidance
  • There may be flare ups, with new variants (e.g. B.1.617) and some public health measures that go back into place for a month or two at a time, but in a more targeted and limited way than we’ve seen in the second and third wave
  • Through the first half of 2022, we’ll see a return to a pre-pandemic normal, with the exception of maybe annual booster shots and perhaps some residual lessons learned (will we ever treat being sick in public the same way?)

In short, we’re at the peak now. June we move from restriction to reopening, July/Aug starts to feel quite different and in the second half of 2021 we incrementally return to something that looks more like 2019 by year end, with any residual public health measures still in place being phased out within the first half of 2022 at the latest.

(In other words, not far off from the article I posted in September.)

Last Fall, I said things would get worse before they get better. Now, we’re at the getting better stage. And it’s not because of “united non-compliance” or HCQ or Saturday Anti Mask League rallies or Maxime Bernier or Roman Baber. It’s what the knowledgeable have been predicting all along. (The flip side to exponential growth is the exponential decrease that comes from widespread vaccination.)

Let’s check back in 6 months, and see whether we’re in digital gulags and underground churches as our communist government has invented a new pretext for extending the pandemic, or if, you know, the people whose predictions have actually been accurate so far are still right.

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