Six weeks ago, the >italic<Concord Monitor>res< happily mothballed the weekly COVID Tracker after 20 months of pondering the ups and downs of the pandemic, with fingers crossed that it would never return.
Alas, we have had to uncross our fingers, at least for one week.
The nation may have moved “out of the pandemic phase,” to quote Dr. Anthony Fauci, but New Hampshire has seen a depressingly familiar pattern since late February even as we shed masks, gather together and tell ourselves that things are back to normal.
Combined with the spread of the contagious Omicron variant and at least one other subvariant, although I’m not sure how important the latter has become here, the fact that we have dropped all restraint has given the SARS-CoV2 virus a new hold on our respiratory systems.
How bad is it right now? Not as bad as in the winter but not good.
The most accurate and telling pandemic statistic remains the number of people who have to stay in the hospital because of COVID-19. Daily counts of new cases and percentage of positive tests, which used to be the best metrics, are increasingly unreliable because so many home tests are being done but aren’t reported.
As counted by the New Hampshire Hospital Association, the number of COVID hospitalizations in the state bottomed out during the start of April at just 27 patients, a number we hadn’t seen since last July.
But since then it has moved steadily back up, at one point growing 50% in a week, hitting 95 on Friday with no sign of slowing.
This is exactly the same pattern we saw a year ago: Hospitalizations bottomed out in late March of 2021 and then jumped into the third wave of the pandemic. So it looks like we’re heading into Pandemic Wave No. 5.
The only hopeful sign is that the episode a year ago was a relatively small wave that peaked within a month or so. Nonetheless, it killed a few score New Hampshire residents unnecessarily and produced sickness that may have lingering effects in hundreds more – and it looks like we’re about to repeat it.
And maybe, for whatever reason, our region will sidestep a surge. As of Friday, the three hospitals owned by Concord Hospital had just 6 COVID patients: 5 in Concord Hospital, and 1 in Laconia. That is more than a month ago, when numbers were close to zero in the three hospitals that Concord owns, but it’s still minor and manageable.
I don’t know about you but I’m still wearing a mask when indoors in public, even though I’m increasingly the only person doing so. I admit it makes me feel self-conscious but that’s better than risking the unpleasant possibilities of “long COVID.”
Things aren’t bad enough that the >italic<Monitor >res<is bringing back a weekly COVID Tracker. But this feature may return to the paper now and then to mark major changes in the pandemic’s pattern.
We update our hospitalization chart on our COVID page at www.concordmonitor.com/Special-Sections/Covid-19