And two steps back....That is the clearest view of humanity's battle against the Covid 19 virus. We will prevail, but as the virus mutates, the battle will be longer and harder than we have admitted to ourselves.
The two new vaccines, with a third on the way shortly, are not the end of battle. They are not the beginning of the end. British Prime Minister Winston Spencer Churchill said in a speech in November 1942 when the British defeated the Germans and General Rommel at El Alamein, that the victory was "not the end. It is not the beginning of the end. It is perhaps the end of the beginning." Churchill was preparing the British public for a long war. A war he had neither flagged nor failed in believing his small island nation would win. But Churchill knew there were many more difficult days ahead. England was still standing alone; bloodied, battered, but unbowed.
Covid 19 is mutating and the mutations are negating some of the advantages of the vaccines. That is the bad news. The good news is that the virus cannot mutate indefinitely. The act of mutations will, in and of itself, burn the virus out. The additional good news is that the vaccines will stop most infections. When a person is not infected by an older strain of the virus, the virus loses a chance to find a host and mutate. When that happens enough, the virus dies. But until then, our enemy survives. The troubling variant, E4A4K, which is emerging in South Africa and Brazil, appears to bind easier to human receptor cells AND eludes the antibodies produced by natural infection or vaccines.
So we have a long, hard battle ahead of us. And that brings us to the legions of robed readers, wandering empty halls of courthouses, their footsteps echoing off of walls and ceilings that used to absorb the noises of loud objections, thundering cross examinations, quiet and meek pleas for mercy, and bored jurors looking to get out of service. We imagine them staring wistfully at empty jury boxes and quietly humming "When will I see you again?"
The answer is "not very soon your honor."
We cannot and should not be opening the state courthouses in March when the CDC is predicting that the new and more virulent virus strains will be the dominant strains in the United States. We should not be opening the federal courthouse for jury trials in April. We need patience. We need 50%, 60%* and beyond of Floridians to have been vaccinated. We need the R rate way below 1 and we need to see that the number of new infections state wide is less than a hundred a day. Only then, when the virus is on the ropes can we attack and win- the way new Commander Bernard Law Montgomery deceived (Operation Bertram)* and out manoeuvred General Rommel until the time was right to press the attack (Operation Lightfoot). *
WWI ended at 11am on 11/11. At 10:59 am, US Solider Henry Gunther-bayonet fixed- attacked a German machine gun emplacement and became the last American solider to die in the war.* No one wants to be the Henry Gunther of Covid when a vaccine and cure is right around the corner.
* It is generally accepted that a herd immunity of +75% is needed to kill a virus and stop a pandemic. With Covid mutations diminishing the effectiveness of current vaccines, it is postulated that we will need a herd immunity of 85% to end Covid. So lets roll up our sleeves and get jabbed.
* All warfare is based on deception. Sun Zu, the Art of War. In the weeks leading up to the final battle, the British scattered fake camps, fake tanks, fake ammo dumps with camouflage throughout the dessert in front of the German lines so as to confuse their enemy where they were and where the attack would occur.
* When General Montgomery ordered the attack, the 24th Australian Brigade shelled the 15th Panzer division for a few minutes. Then, in a brilliant coordinated artillery attack, 1000 guns launched an attacked across a 40 mile front. Then Montgomery sent in four infantry divisions. The soldiers would not trip the anti-tank mines because they were not heavy enough. Artillery supported the infantry as engineers cleared the minefields and the infantry called in the coordinates. Then Montgomery sent a three pronged-pincer attacked, with the 7th Armoured division and the Free French Brigade attacking the German lines from the South, while on the right flank the 44th 131st Infantry Division and 131st Infantry Brigade pressed the attack. The Germans fought hard and were disciplined. The mine fields were deeper than expected and took more time to clear.
There is so much more to the second battle of El Almein and perhaps this fall, 78 years after the famous battle, we will write more about it.
* Gunther's story is fascinating. A few months earlier, after he sent a dispiriting letter home criticizing the war, he was demoted from sergeant to private as the letter was read by censors and his feelings were reported to his superiors. The demotion crushed him, and he spent the remaining months of the war trying to prove his loyalty. On the morning of November 11, the Germans knew of the pending armistice. It is unknown if Gunther's unit was aware the war was about to end. There are conflicting reports about what the Allies knew. When Gunther charged, the Germans yelled at waved at him to go back. They fired shots over his head. Undeterred, Gunther continued his charge with his bayonet fixed, eventually forcing the Germans to open up with their machine gun and kill Gunther.