Don’t focus on the bad news about coronavirus variants

Bad news gets headlines and attracts eyeballs and ears.

Which is why many media commentators and reporters tend to focus on the scary potentialities of a situation, even when they have very little hard data to go on; maybe especially when they have little hard data to go on.

And which is why in the current climate, stories about variant and mutant strains of the coronavirus get so much attention, and what you can call viral foreplay, that is, speculation – nearly always from lab-done studies – about how the latest variant-de-jour might outwit not only your body’s immune system but also significantly lower the ability of the current vaccines to protect us.

Which is, of course, what’s been going on for a while about the so-called U.K. variant of the novel coronavirus, or B.1.1.7, which has been said to not only be much more infectious than the original strain but also more likely to lead to severe illness and death, and once established in a community, B.1.1.7 will very quickly, so many experts rush to tell us, lead to massive spikes in case numbers, and eventually much higher numbers of severe illness and deaths.

So the bad news is that in the past week, B.1.1.7, according to the New York Times, accounted for more than 20 % of new COVID cases in the U.S. this week,  and an estimated 30 % of all cases in Florida.

But, Florida, which has followed a pretty lax prevention policy, has not experienced a resurgence in overall infections.

Now that may still happen – this is a virus with a very weird sense of humour.

But it hasn’t and the best bet is that it won’t.

The bottom line: Speculation based on lab-only studies will often feature – and hype – negative potential outcomes, and that’s not such a bad thing even if it scares the pants off a lot of people because it means that we will be more vigilant about that potential outcomes.

However, the only true measure of what is likely to happen is what is already happening in the real world, and happily in this pandemic, real-world outcomes have been much brighter than media scare stories.