Renewing our commitment to staying safe
Shortly after the coronavirus pandemic all but shut down the state in March 2020, many examples of a we’re-all-in-this-together spirit began popping up. Social media filled with messages from those willing to shop or run errands for neighbors. Neighborhoods came together each evening for short noise-making sessions to demonstrate support for health care and other essential workers. Residents got busy sewing face masks and giving them away to neighbors. Many wrote notes of encouragement to nursing home residents and devised creative ways to make graduation special for local high school seniors who could not have in-person commencement ceremonies.
Many a phone conversation or email exchange ended with the reminder to, "Stay safe!"
Now, even with a death toll few thought possible 10 months ago and with rising numbers of COVID-19 cases throughout Connecticut and many states, much of that camaraderie seems to have disappeared. Grocery shoppers more regularly ignore the one-way aisles. More defiant anti-maskers, including a group of about 500 who protested at the state Capitol when legislators were sworn into office earlier this month, flaunt common-sense public health protocols. Large holiday celebrations were held despite warnings by public health officials that such gatherings could, and, in fact did, touch off viral surges.
Most startling of all, are instances when those with active cold and flu-like symptoms, including some who know they are COVID-positive, move about in public places and ignore the most basic of pandemic public health advice to stay home and self-isolate when ill.
Such acts are much more than rude and boorish. They are dangerous.
It’s no mystery why many are fatigued by this pandemic. After 10 months, people are weary of spending so much time at home, of feeling nervous about being out in public, of seeing performing arts institutions and sporting venues still shuttered and gatherings restricted. Many are lonely, depressed and missing the emotional sustenance of family and friends. Most understand that no amount of videoconferencing is an adequate substitute for a hug.
We cannot yet afford to lose sight of the reasons for our discomfort, however. The numbers are too stark: more than 3,000 Americans are dying daily from COVID, more than 380,000 in the U.S. have died since the pandemic’s start. In Connecticut, where we enjoyed coronavirus rates of less than 1% for much of the summer, the positivity rate jumped to nearly 11% on Tuesday, before settling down later in the week − though it remains high. More than 1,100 state residents are hospitalized.
An alarming number of our elderly and most vulnerable have fallen victim to this pandemic. Nursing home residents make up well over a third of the COVID deaths nationwide. Minority communities also have suffered disproportionate losses.
The state's success in distributing vaccines in nursing homes is an encouraging step, but reluctance to get the vaccine remains high in minority neighborhoods, the very places where widespread distribution is much needed. The state and local health districts will need to do a better job of educating the public on the importance of broad participation in the inoculation effort.
In late December, even as vaccines were being rolled out, leading infectious disease specialist Dr. Anthony Fauci warned that holiday gatherings would produce surge upon surge of COVID cases. He agreed with President-elect Joe Biden’s comments that the pandemic’s darkest days were yet to come. In Connecticut, state health officials this week called on businesses and community members to “double down” on complying with health protocols.
As their words ring truer with each new uptick of COVID cases, it’s time for all of us to regain the strength and community-spiritedness we demonstrated in the spring. If we are sick, we must stay home. We must wear masks, limit our socializing and hunker down as much as possible. We should find ways to support our neighbors and local businesses.
With the pace of the vaccine rollout ramping up, we can be hopeful of better, safer days ahead. Until then, let’s remember we truly are all in this together.
The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Tim Dwyer, Editorial Page Editor Paul Choiniere, Managing Editor Izaskun E. Larrañeta, staff writer Julia Bergman and retired deputy managing editor Lisa McGinley. However, only the publisher and editorial page editor are responsible for developing the editorial opinions. The board operates independently from the Day newsroom.
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