While we wait for the COVID vaccines

As of this writing, Johns Hopkins University reports that more than 250,652 Americans have died from the coronavirus. The calculation on Worldometers, which usually runs a little ahead of JHU, is 256,447 deaths.

In the last week, we’ve had 1.1 million new cases and 8,244 new deaths, according to the CDC. Measuring the hospitalization rate nationwide is difficult because not all states collect similar data, but if you look at local coverage, you can see where hospitals and health-care workers feel squeezed: Abilene, Texas; Akron, Ohio; Wausau, Wis; One-third of hospitals in Colorado.

Cases are increasing dramatically in pretty much every state and territory, so you can toss out any narrative of wise blue-state governors and foolish red-state governors. (Please keep track of who confidently assured you, at some point in the past nine months, that we were “on the verge of herd immunity” and made decisions accordingly.)

The more than 250,000 Americans who aren’t with us anymore are a lasting change in our lives. Yes, many were elderly, but some of those deaths could have been prevented. You’ve probably heard quite a bit about New York governor Andrew Cuomo and his decisions involving nursing homes and assisted-living facilities. What you probably haven’t heard is that the virus is still getting into those facilities and still killing the elderly within. It’s happening in Colorado and Missouri and Vermont and New Jersey and Maine, so the problem is not just a matter of a particular governor being an idiot. According to the CDC, more than 65,000 of America’s deaths occurred to residents of those kinds of facilities — and that’s just counting up to November 1.

I’m not going to tell anyone what to do with their Thanksgiving plans. For many people it’s been a miserable and lonely year, and they’re not going to want to hear that they shouldn’t see their friends and family on the biggest travel week of the year. Lord knows, no one is going to listen to the likes of Gavin Newsom on decisions like this. But considering the skyrocketing rate of new cases, if you have the chance to get tested for the virus, you might want to take that opportunity before you see your elderly aunts and uncles or grandparents. It’s not a perfect system; you could still catch the virus between the time you’re tested and when you see them. But at least you’ll know if you were negative at the time you were tested. And if your test comes back positive, you have good reason to see your relatives through a video screen this year. By Christmas, you won’t be contagious anymore.

Yes, the treatment options are getting better. Yes, 40 percent of people will be asymptomatic. But the last thing you want is Aunt Edna or Uncle Fester in the ICU right before the holidays.

We’re almost through this, people. Besides the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine “is safe and triggers a similar immune response among all adults,” based upon the testing so far. (This vaccine has one more round of testing to go.) Johnson & Johnson thinks their vaccine will be ready to join the party in January or February. We could have four working vaccines getting into people’s bloodstreams by Valentine’s Day. And maybe the virus that blew up all of our lives in March 2020 will be fading away by March 2021.

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