“Are we there, yet?”
That’s a backseat query we haven’t heard in more than a year as we’ve curtailed our travels, family visits and outings to sports events and other destinations. All because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
But when that question is applied to COVID, itself, the answer is, “No, not yet. But soon. It’s just around the next bend.”
Now is not the time to let up; we need to keep our foot on the gas and our eyes on the road. That means continuing to push ahead with COVID vaccinations, maintaining social distancing and masking up when necessary to protect ourselves and others.
After losing more than 556,000 Americans to death at the hands of the pandemic, we’re all well aware of the awful cost COVID has inflicted on friends and family – and on others across the world; it would be a massive mistake to let our guard down now, just when victory over the virus is in sight.
Yes, there are many bright spots in recent reports on the effectiveness of the COVID vaccines. The number of COVID deaths in the U.S. plunged by nearly 20% in the first week of April. For the most part that success is due to the fast ramping up of vaccination rates that are now going into the arms of Americans at the rate of 3 million people per day.
Here in Wisconsin 1.1 million state residents have been fully vaccinated with two doses and that represents 20% of our population. Additionally, the number of state residents who have received their first vaccination which gives substantial protection now stands at 30%. Likewise, the national figure on partial vaccinations stands at 33% with more than 109 million Americans having received at least one dose of the vaccine.
The drop in deaths and the rise in vaccinations are both reasons to cheer.
Gradually we’ve seen restaurants and bars opening to higher capacities and sports venues as well. Tailgating is coming back at Am-Fam Field for Brewers games and travel is on the uptick. We’ll gladly welcome the day when we can put our masks in a drawer to sit as a reminder of a perilous 2020.
That day hasn’t yet come. There are new spikes in Europe in COVID cases and here in the U.S. the number of coronavirus cases a day has risen by 21% over the past couple of weeks. The number of daily hospitalizations in the U.S. have also gone up by about 2.7% from week to week.
Younger people in their 30s and 40s are showing up in those statistics – in part because America gave vaccination priority to older Americans who were more likely to die. And new variants of COVID look to be more aggressive in their ability to spread.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, warned last week that the U.S. is at risk from a new surge and said, “It’s almost a race between getting people vaccination and this surge that seems to want to increase.”
“Hang in there a bit longer,” Fauci said. “Now is not the time, as I’ve said so many times, to declare victoy prematurely.”