For Now, Wear Masks, Social Distance, Avoid Crowds
You hear talk about a “second wave” of COVID-19, and it’s here. But take heart. In context, we’re not seeing the end of the beginning, but the beginning of the end.
USA Today’s lead headline Monday was “Moderna seeks emergency FDA approval for COVID-19 vaccine,” and it was echoed in all the national newspapers – the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post – and many local ones that still publish on Mondays.
That was foretold last week on the front page of this paper: “VACCINE DUE: Local Drugstores Prepare To Give Protective Shots.”
Moderna was the third out of the gate, after Pfizer and AstraZeneca sought FDA approval in the past week.
Our county public health director, Heidi Bond, echoes the national predictions: We can expect to begin administering a vaccine to health workers by mid-December (still-President Trump says next week), and to the general public by April.
OK. But it’s hard to imagine the public will have to wait until spring. The supply will be taking off and demand will be rising.
In an interview in early April, when this all began, Bond told that, since 9/11, this county – among many others in New York State – conducted exercises to see how quickly the local population could be vaccinated if biological warfare struck.
The answer: Staff and volunteer nurses could vaccinate everyone in the county in four days. Four days.
The good news has been sensibly muted by the remaining threat. Public officials – our mayors, in particular, who are on the front lines – don’t want to say we’re out of the woods. And we aren’t.
Still, it was particularly heartening when Governor Cuomo, in his daily briefing Nov. 23, identified Cooperstown as the community with the lowest infection rate in the state, 0.24 percent – about one person in 400. That’s one quarter of one percent, compared to Lancaster, the Buffalo suburb, at a high of 9.68 – about one person in 10.
Cooperstown’s low rate didn’t just happen. Mayor Tillapaugh and the Village Board have been constant and unanimous in messaging: wear masks, social distance, avoid crowds.
That the village could be singled out after hosting people from around the country over the summer – fewer certainly – affirms the local leadership.
Still, countywide we’re in the midst of that predicted second wave, with daily infections hitting a one-day record of 30 last week. This past Monday, there were 19 in-county cases reported.
The City of Oneonta, after largely avoiding infections from 700-plus cases that erupted on SUNY Oneonta at the end of August, is now the epicenter of this second wave. With local bars as the flashpoints, 66 of last week’s 130 cases countywide were in the city and town of Oneonta.
Like Tillapaugh, Oneonta’s Gary Herzig has been an activist mayor, using his bully pulpit to promote safety measures, and forming the “Survive, Then Thrive” committee to do what might be done to help the local economy. Early on, he raised the alarm that things were awry at SUNY Oneonta, paving the way for COVID-fighter Dennis Craig’s appointment as interim president.
Craig is working his way around pockets of faculty resistance, building consensus around a reopening plan, aimed for now at Feb. 1, but – Craig is the first to say – subject to adjustment, depending where we are at the time.
All that said, the emerging national strategy for rolling out the vaccinations makes sense. Certainly, vaccinate front-line and healthcare workers first. Then, vaccinate everyone over 50.
The numbers suggest that will largely eradicate the plague.
As of Nov. 25, 240,213 Americans had died of COVID, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Of those, 220,852 were 55 and over; 19,361 were under 55.
That means 92 percent of COVID’s victims have been 55 and older; only 8 percent, 54 and younger.
About 30 percent of all Americans are 55 and older, yet they make up 92 percent of victims. Vaccinate a third of the nation (110 million people of 320 million total), solve 92 percent of the problem.
It’s a cold calculation, but a practical one.
Meanwhile, nobody wants to be the last person to die from COVID. And, while the odds are much, much better for younger Americans, nobody’s completely safe. For the love of the people who love you, wear masks, social distance, avoid crowds.