Prepare for the Long Winter

Right now we are traveling on tours and trips. Parents and students among us are planning these first few hectic weeks of school, whether face-to-face or remotely. But soon we will be in the thick of autumn, and after the fall, winter will come. And COVID-19 isn’t going anywhere.

We are, of course, fighting to flatten the epidemic curve. But consider a best-case scenario: Even if the number of new cases is on a downward trend, you need to be vigilant to ensure that the number does not rise again. And even if we reduce the number of cases to near zero in one city or one state, there is always the possibility that travel or an undiagnosed illness could trigger a new cluster.

While many of us cherish the hope that a vaccine will become available this fall or winter, it is unlikely that even a fast-track vaccine will reach everyone (and protect everyone) before 2020.

A long winter awaits us. This is how it could end.


Some schools have already started work, and some have already had to send students home again. I would not be surprised if the many schools that currently vow that the school will open in person suddenly change their minds.

Meanwhile, this whole distance learning situation will hopefully be better than the temporary situation that many families experienced in the spring, but for many of us, this is still new territory. Will everything be smooth? Call me a pessimist, but I wouldn’t bet on that. Whatever plans you make, expect them to be reversed.

Expect a steady stream of cancellations from now on: school semesters, sporting seasons, conferences, and more. The announcements will be even more chaotic than they were in the spring. Then everyone knew that he would cancel everything. Now the organizers are more willing to cherish the hope that by the time such and such a date arrives, everything will be fine. Everyone will wait for everyone else to give up first.

If you are in an influential position somewhere – a team coach, a conference speaker, a squeaky wheel at a PTA, a major event organizer at work – consider being the first to say, “Maybe we should cancel.” (You will be in this position all winter.)


Halloween is likely to continue in the same way as the opening of schools. Or we will have “ trick or treating” and parties, in which case outbreaks can be caused by them; or we will not , and we will have to come up with alternative plans. I vote for no parties, just bowls of candy and hand sanitizer on every veranda, and neighbors shouting through the windows. YOU JUST YOU IN THIS SUIT LOOK SO CUTE!

In many parts of the US, October is when it gets cold. Outdoor parties and restaurant patio seating will be a little chilly, but we can handle it.


First, the elections. Damn elections. Lining up for a personal vote is a bad idea. Mail-order ballots have suddenly become political football, although they increase access to voting and do not pose a serious risk of counterfeiting . Some states allow you to drop a ballot in an approved collection box, but is there sufficient access? Do we hear about long lines and crowded mailboxes on election night?

Possibly, as a result of the elections, there will be accumulations of COVID. Maybe not. Oh, and flu season could start picking up steam around now .

What are we going to do with Thanksgiving? This is usually one of the biggest trips of the year, and if you haven’t seen your grandparents since last November, chances are they are already trying to persuade you to come visit. If the number of cases is still high, it may be best for everyone to stay at home. But how many people can resist?


I bet there will be more holiday parties. In a typical year, you already need to decide which invitations to refuse, at least for the sake of common sense. This year we will need to decide how much our contact budget will allow. Maybe the number of cases will be low and we can relax a little. (Maybe we’d better cancel.)

If the parties happen and our overall testing and prevention strategies continue to be chaotic, there will be a long series of COVID clusters starting from different directions. Maybe too much to keep track of.

It is definitely too cold now for all the meetings to be held outdoors. Those of us living in the Nordic countries will risk the coronavirus every time we meet. We’ll also be jealous of the California weather. (And we could be planning on coming to California to exchange germs while we’re at it.)


This is another transitional moment that will be difficult for many of us. Back in March, I began to suspect that 2020 was canceled. Every event, every semester, every season, everything. However, by 2021 we will have experienced the worst and things will be different.

But if we have a tough December, there is no reason to believe that January will be any better. We’ve seen spikes in holiday parties and winter travel. Most likely, a vaccine – if one becomes available – will still be far from universal availability. And a new year awaits us with no clear idea of ​​how long our problems might last.

If it’s too unpleasant

So far this year, my pessimism has been confirmed every time. I told you in March that it will not end soon , and it will be worse in June. Our parenting editor, Megan Walbert, informed you earlier this month that schools will close again immediately after reopening , and a delayed crash is unfolding around us right now .

I would really, really like to be wrong. Please prove that I am wrong. Please stay at home, please cancel whatever you can, to cancel, please lobby every local, state and federal government with all your might to come up with a realistic plan to keep people safe. Let’s do some quick and reliable testing for anyone who needs it. Let’s pay people to stay at home and pay hazard wages to those who can’t. Let’s find alternative solutions for everything that usually “should” happen in person. Let’s explore what is happening with this virus and how it spreads. Or maybe we’ll get lucky with the vaccine.

Back in March, it seemed realistic to think that we could sit down for a short time and enjoy the reward of getting back to normal. In April, things seemed to take a little longer than planned. It is now August and we can see the future unfold before us if only we dare to take a look. The winter will be long.


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