With all due respect to meteorologists and their measurements, summer doesn’t really start until high schools graduate.
Now that “Pomp and Circumstance” has been heard on football fields all over New Hampshire we can say the outdoor season is definitely here, which seems a good time to fire up the COVID Tracker and take a start-of-summer look at where we stand in the pandemic.
The answer, I’m afraid, is “not great,” although it’s far from clear if it’s going to get worse.
As I write this the New Hampshire Hospital Association says 109 people are in state hospitals being treated for COVID or recovering from it. That number, which is the best in-state metric, rose last week and is higher than any point since the end of May.
It’s also much higher than this point last year (fewer than 20 were in the hospital in mid-June 2021, according to state data) and probably much higher than at this point in 2020, although we were still figuring out data collection early in the pandemic so that last comparison isn’t certain.
Another good data set, the amount of COVID RNA samples in Boston’s wastewater treatment facility, has also risen slightly in the past week and is also higher than it was at this point last summer. Unfortunately, the CDC’s map of wastewater data from national sites lists no new information for the three participating New Hampshire wastewater plants so we don’t have that information closer to home.
The once-a-week COVID measure released by the Department of Health and Human Services says the number of new cases has fallen, although the spread of unreported at-home testing makes that figure unreliable. A more reliable count of the number of COVID-related deaths (roughly two a day), is notably higher than it was in April and May although it’s not rising at the moment.
What all this means is that the pandemic hasn’t gone away – but you knew that already – and also, sadly, that it isn’t going to subside enough that we can forget about it until the leaves start to turn color.
The complex interplay of new variants with vaccination and booster patterns makes it hard to know whether things are going to get worse this summer or stay the same, or maybe even get a little better. But I’m going to assume the former.
The result is that I will continue to be one of the few people in the bank or store or restaurant wearing a mask and, with a deep sigh, continue to avoid crowded indoor spaces like bars when the Celtics were on TV or packed dance floors.
Let’s hope next time we bring the Tracker out of mothballs, things will be better.