We Americans have experienced a horrible year since the coronavirus invaded out shores. We’ve been confined to our homes, prohibited from traveling to vacation places and denied most of the many pleasures we took for granted pre-Covid. We have lost loved ones and been denied the chance to hug the people who are most important in our lives.
Millions of doses of vaccines have been distributed around the country. The news is promising, but to quote the great Yogi Berra, It ain’t over till it’s over.
President Biden optimistically promised that we would have 100 million vaccinations in his first 100 days, and now he has upped that goal to 200 million. Pfizer, using new and remarkable technology, has predicted that in a short time it will be able to produce 100 million doses a month. Johnson & Johnson has also made bold promises, even with the recent loss of 10 million doses due to “human error.”
It is estimated that approximately 65 percent of all people over age 65 in New York state have been vaccinated. The numbers for people under 65 aren’t as high, but with the announcement that anyone over age 18 will now be eligible for the shots, it’s anticipated that by mid-summer, a vast majority of New Yorkers will have had one or both shots. Sounds good, doesn’t it?
Not according to Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who tearfully stated recently that the country was in danger of a fourth wave of Covid-19 that could wipe out all of our progress to date. Her fear for the public is based on the fact that some 18 states have declared that the there is no longer any need for masks and social distancing, and their inhabitants can go back to life as usual. Businesses have been told that it’s time to open up, with no qualifications.
Similar warnings have come from Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Many doctors like sports analogies, and Fauci has proclaimed that we shouldn’t “spike the ball on the 5-yard-line.” In plain talk, Fauci says that the number of reported cases and deaths have plateaued, and despite all the vaccinations, more and more people are defying health warnings and exposing themselves to the possibility of serious illness. The latest bump in new cases is hitting the 25-to-40 age group hard, and the people in it are just being declared eligible to get vaccinated.
The statistics that are announced every day don’t reach most people, but the television reports of the spring break crowds in Miami, flashed on the news many nights in a row, showed how reckless the college and post-college crowd can be. Miami police were forced to make hundreds of arrests, and blocked off the bridges leading to downtown Miami. It’s too early to assess how many new cases will be reported, but there’s no doubt that there will be an uptick in Covid reports.
Many other people will contract Covid in the weeks and months to come due to other factors. For some stupid reasons, many people who call themselves Republicans have decided that wearing a mask is a political statement, and they want no part of it. The anti-vaccine movement has contributed to the increase in cases, and some right-wing groups have embraced the anti-vaccers as a way to gain attention.
Over the past year, we have learned other interesting facts. When cases go up in your hometown, businesses are hit with new restrictions. More reported cases cause occupancy numbers to be reduced, and that hits your suffering local business owner right in the pocketbook. Every bundle of new cases forces a local official to punish innocent merchants. When you take off that mask and flout social distancing, you punish a lot more people than you’d imagine.
Things could get a lot better in the months to come, and the increasing number of vaccinated people is promising. But Berra would be the first to acknowledge that as of this point in April, this national crisis is far from over.
Jerry Kremer was a state assemblyman for 23 years, and chaired the Assembly’s Ways and Means Committee for 12 years. He now heads Empire Government Strategies, a business development and legislative strategy firm. Comments about this column? JKremer@liherald.com.