Upgrading My Covid-19 Risk Assessment

  1. There’s a likelihood that people who suffer through a Covid episode do not gain any permanent immunity to the disease. So far there’s no evidence to suggest that permanent immunity exists. (Caveat: Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.)

  2. Now that this virus is present in the human population, it will be present with us for the rest of time. There is no realistic way to “get rid of it”. (Unless, perhaps, drinking bleach or drain-cleaner actually works.)

  3. Everyone seems hopeful for a vaccine to be developed “soon”. Most (informed?) guesses are around 2021Q3 for a vaccine, add another 6 months or so for it to roll out to the world. There’s another camp that says, “Optimistically(!) a vaccine might be forthcoming in a year.” Personally I’ve never seen one of those optimisticallys pan out. Stunning silence on the other side: The possibility that no vaccine ever gets developed. (If you’re allowing the one set of probabilities, you have to allow the counter-probabilities.) What if no vaccine is ever found against Covid-19?

  4. If all three of the above should come to pass — even in some less-than-100% form — then, given enough time, SAR-CoV-2 is going to kill every last human being.

Perhaps it’s time for me to upgrade its status from Small Disaster/Medium Irritant to Potentially Serious Existential Risk. Not a full blown Major Crisis/Actual Existential Risk like runaway climate change. Still only exists in potentia, but watch carefully, act cautiously.

More realistically, we and the virus will likely co-evolve to some state where we can mutually live with each other — for some value of “live with” — just as we’ve done with other microorganisms we’ve picked up from wild or domesticated livestock over the centuries — measles, mumps, pink-eye, chicken-pox, herpes. After all, any organism so lethal that it kills off the entire population of hosts is not on a good course for survival itself.

So, no. Potentially Serious Existential Risk is not justified. Perhaps Medium-Grade Nuisance is about as far as we need go when it comes to the threat to our species. Or we may find a vaccine.