Yogi Berra was talking about baseball when he said, “It ain’t over til it’s over.” But his famous proverb applies just as easily to the coronavirus. As much as we would like to be done with COVID-19, it isn’t done with us.
The number of active cases in Sonoma County is up fourfold since the end of March, and on one day last week confirmed COVID-19 hospitalizations reached the highest level since mid-February.
While the trend lines are unmistakable, it’s likely that official case counts are far below the actual numbers, because of the easy availability of home test kits.
Sonoma County isn’t an outlier. Infections and hospitalizations are up across more California, other states, Canada and much of Europe, largely because of the highly contagious BA.5 strain of the omicron variant, which seems to be adept at evading antibodies from past infections and more resistant to current vaccines.
Eric Topol, a professor at Scripps Research who tracks pandemic trends, told the Washington Post this is “the worst version of the virus that we’ve seen.”
Even so, no one is suggesting more lockdowns. Indeed, indoor mask mandates and most other restrictions on business and travel have been lifted. After 2½ years, most people are adjusting to life with the virus.
Millions of Americans are on the go this summer, despite thousands of flights getting grounded and gas prices soaring into the stratosphere. Meanwhile, workplaces are filling up again, and there’s a full calendar of fairs and farmers markets, concerts and sporting events beckoning.
This return to normal, or close to it, was made possible by the development of effective vaccines and improved treatments that prevent most serious illnesses. Still, there are simple, cost-free things people can do to protect themselves and others from infection.
Most obvious is prevention. Get vaccinated if you haven’t already and get boosted as soon as you’re eligible. Children as young as 6 months are now eligible for Moderna and Pfizer vaccines.
In Sonoma County, 78.3% of the eligible population is fully vaccinated. While that’s well above the statewide average, eight other counties, including seven in the Bay Area, have higher vaccination rates. Vaccines have been proven safe and effective the world over. There is no reason to keep waiting.
Avoid large, indoor gatherings if you can. Meet friends outdoors, and take advantage of restaurant parklets during pleasant summer weather. Wear a mask when you must be inside, including supermarkets, airplanes and other transit. COVID-19 is an airborne disease, and a properly fitted mask, especially an N95 or KN95, can prevent transmission. Masks are no longer required, but they still are recommended by public health experts.
If you have COVID-19 symptoms — fever or chills, muscle aches, difficulty breathing, a loss of taste or smell — get tested. You can order free at-home tests at covid.gov/tests or by calling 800-232-0233.
If you test positive, report the result at socoemergency.org/emergency/novel-coronavirus/testing-and-tracing.
Most cases are mild, but some people get quite ill — “the sickest I had felt in two decades,” columnist Marcos Breton wrote in the Sacramento Bee last week. Sonoma County just recorded the 500th local COVID-19 fatality. Then there are long COVID-19 cases, the causes of which are still not well understood.
Make no mistake, the virus is still stalking us. But if we remain vigilant and make sound choices, the day may come when it is, finally, over.
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