Tortoise and the Hare: COVID Style

Back in the days after Thanksgiving last year, I remember feeling a general tension among my friends and associates here in Maine. COVID numbers were rising higher than we’d seen them before, and there was a real sense that we might have a serious problem on our hands. After all, we’d had our biggest surge back in May 2020, when there were case rates in the high double digits each day. (78 was the peak on May 20th.) December 9th. about 2 weeks after Thanksgiving, we were up to 405 cases in a day.

It definitely felt (to me, at least) like people were taking this seriously. That said, it didn’t stop the trend. By January 13th, we had our most cases recorded in a single day: 824. Thankfully. people seemed to get the message by then (or perhaps they just stopped getting together for family holidays, since there were no more family holidays to get together for?). Since then, the case rates dropped into February, when we bottomed out in the low 200s. That seems low in comparison to January 13th, but it felt high right around Thanksgiving.

Case numbers have only gone up since then. We’ve now had our third day in a row of more than 500 cases a day, and we’re running 30% fewer tests each day than we were in January. The case trend is more troubling now than it was back then, so why is there not more of the tension in the area around the spread?

There’s a couple of obvious reasons I can identify. People are just tired of following restrictions, for one thing. Even when the restrictions are relatively easy (like wearing a mask), it feels like a lot of people just don’t want to do them anymore. There’s also the fact that we have yet to see the corresponding spike in hospitalizations and deaths, almost certainly due to more than 80% of our population older than 70 being vaccinated now.

Then there’s the fact that many people are already vaccinated to one degree or another. The end is in sight, after all. I will be getting my second shot tomorrow and two weeks after that, I’ll be good to go. Denisa’s on the same schedule as me. Tomas will get his second shot by the end of the month. The odds of COVID having a drastic impact on my immediate family will be drastically lower. So at this point, my general approach has been to shake my head at people who seem unable to follow some basic guidelines for the last few weeks, but to not really stress about it other than that.

It doesn’t mean those case rates don’t concern me, however, especially since there’s nothing to point at to show why they’re going up so much. No Thanksgiving or Christmas, though perhaps some of it is from Easter? It seems very probable right now that we might have our worst surge of cases now, just before we ought to be at the point where our cases are dwindling. Also troubling: the spread is happening in more rural areas instead of cities.

Perhaps it won’t end up mattering. Perhaps the hospitalization rates will stay down (even if they might be higher than they would have been by following guidelines better). Same for deaths. But I’m concerned more right now that some of the shut downs across the state might have to be put into place again. I want this to all be done as much as the next guy, but I realize from a public planning standpoint, the dramatic rise in cases might well slow that down.

But who really knows? Not me, that’s for sure. I’m just focusing on the things I can control. Once I’m vaccinated, I’m definitely going to be going out more and doing more. There’s a trip to Puerto Rico in my future already, and I think I’ll start going back to restaurants and maybe even a movie theater if there’s something worth seeing. That is to say, I completely understand wanting to be done with all of this, I just don’t understand the insistence on doing so prematurely, and the lack of general concern I’m feeling around me about the direction my state is currently heading. The numbers we have now were grounds for “very concerned” back in November/December. I wonder what they’ll have to get to for the same response now.

Here’s hoping I’m worrying over nothing.


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