For 20 months I’ve writing a week “COVID tracker” in the Monitor, trying to give a sense of how the pandemic was doing in New Hampshire. It was spurred by confusion over all the numbers we were hearing in the early days and has been surprisingly popular even as we’ve all gotten very tired of hearing about the pandemic. I’m winding it up as COVID-19 winds down – although rising case numbers in Europe and parts of China are kind of worrisome, aren’t they?
Nothing personal, but I hope this is good-bye.
Two years ago COVID-19 entered our lives and 20 months ago the Monitor began using this Monday column to help us track the disease. But this will be the last COVID Tracker because it seems like the pandemic has quieted to the point that a weekly overview is no longer useful.
For more than a month now all pandemic indications have been trending down quickly in New Hampshire and most of the country. That includes COVID-related deaths, new cases, positivity rate of tests, the amount of virus found in wastewater, and the all-important number of people in the hospital.
A combination of vaccination and immunity in all the people who recovered from the fast-spreading but comparatively mild Omicron variant have greatly limited the ability of SATS-CoV2 virus to spread.
This does not mean the pandemic is over. It is definitely not over.
Children under 5 years old and immunocompromised people are still vulnerable to a virus that has killed a million Americans, including the five New Hampshire people whose deaths were announced shortly before I began writing this.
Even those of us who have been vaccinated and boosted to the max aren’t completely out of the woods. This disease is so new that it’s not clear how long immunization will last and there’s always the worry that a new variant will emerge from the billions of people in the world who have yet to be vaccinated.
I’m going to keep wearing my mask among indoor crowds to improve my odds, although that puts me increasingly in the minority. My wife and I wore them to town meeting, for example, but about 95% of the folks in the stuffy gymnasium were maskless.
Nonetheless, things are quiet enough that this is a good time to wind up the Monitor’s COVID Tracker, hopefully forever.
I say “hopefully” because we did this once before.
Last July as COVID numbers in New Hampshire got low — lower than they are right now, in fact — we put the Tracker on hold, confident that the new vaccines were winding up the pandemic for good.
You know how that played out. The Omicron variant, aided by a lot of misguided opposition to vaccination, brought the disease back in full force. The COVID Tracker was back in action in August.
There’s always a chance, alas, that the scenario will repeat itself. If so, this weekly overview will be taken out of mothballs again.
But I’m pretty confident that we’re finally on the path out of the pandemic with continued development in vaccines and treatment methods leading the way.