Back in April I really thought the Covid-19 pandemic would soon be over. Vaccines were rolling out. It looked like herd immunity was about to kick in. Time to move on to other things.
For a while, life was great around here. Active cases declined to single digits. Restaurants and bars filled up. People stopped wearing masks, even inside stores. There were parties and crowds. Everyone declared victory.
But the virus said nope. Active cases increased, then took off like a rocket. Last week the number of active cases hit an all-time high.
However, this surge is different. In the county, roughly 80% of adults are vaccinated. At Cornell it’s even better: 95% of students. Most of the Covid cases are happening in vaccinated folks, and they usually are less serious. Ten local residents are currently hospitalized: worse than anything before December 2020, but 1/3 of last January’s peak.
In the early days of the pandemic, Fox News kept saying this new disease was no worse than the flu. They were wrong. Lots of people found that out the hard way.
However, vaccines tame Covid-19 into a less serious respiratory infection. I couldn’t find local data for flu cases, hospitalizations or deaths to compare, but that’s kinda the point. Influenza is a normal part of winter, and rarely a crisis.
After 18 months of pandemic, Covid-19 is still worse than the flu, but it’s getting closer to being ordinary around here. So far this new surge has not affected daily life by much. Shops are open. Restaurants are busy. The hospital is not overwhelmed.
Sadly, Ithaca is not typical of the US.
Vaccination rates are lower in most areas. Sometimes a lot lower. In general, vaccinations seem to map pretty closely to wealth and education levels, plus Native Americans. I’m not sure what’s going on in Virginia and Georgia: maybe politics, or local culture, or just a data glitch. Texas is going la-la-la it’s not a problem if we don’t report it.
If you zoom in, our county is that dark blue dot in the middle of light and lighter blue Upstate NY. People took the pandemic very seriously around here, and they still do. Almost everyone is wearing masks in stores again. Some even outdoors. That’s not the case one or two counties over.
It has paid off. We’re a dark blue dot in the death map, too. Most nearby counties have been 3x to 4x worse. People in the dark red areas were over 20x more likely to die.
The way each region responds to the pandemic really is a matter of life and death. I suspect it’s going to be another tough winter. Delta is bad, but Mu sounds badder. Most likely Covid-19 will use up the entire Greek alphabet before it’s over.
BTW here’s a website that does a great job of calculating Coronavirus risk for you. Plug in a location, an activity and the details, and you can see the odds that it will make you sick.