We need to pay attention. Each day, the New York Times tracks the most up-to-date statistics regarding the coronavirus both in the US and around the world. On July 7, the lead sentence reflected the cautious optimism generally felt in the US, at least across the Northeast: “About 250 deaths are being reported each day, the fewest since March 2020. Case numbers remain near their lowest levels since testing became widely available, but they have started to trend slowly upward.”
But it is the final phrase, “[Case numbers] have started to trend slowly upward,” that should give us pause as we continue to endure eighteen months of this pandemic. In New York City, once the worldwide epicenter of the virus, cases have similarly begun to tick upwards fueled by the Delta variant. Joseph Goldstein writes that the “numbers are still low, but the increase [in July] has been swift, surprising some epidemiologists and public health officials who had not expected to see cases jump so quickly after remaining level throughout June.” Goldstein goes on to quote Denis Nash, an epidemiologist at the CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy, “Alarming is not the right word. I would say concerning.”
The vast majority of new cases are among the unvaccinated. Politicization of receiving a Covid vaccination has amplified vaccine skepticism. Levels of transmission from the Delta variant exacerbate the concern and provide further evidence that until we are all free from coronavirus (including those beyond our national borders), we are all at risk. For my family, this has become far more than an esoteric argument. My eight-year-old grand nephew tested positive for Covid just yesterday. He seems to be doing fine but if this virus has taught us anything, it is that it is unpredictable. And, of course, the long-term effects of the virus are still unknown. I covet your thoughts and prayers for his complete recovery.
While statistics indicate that it may not be necessary to become alarmed, neither is it beneficial to be lulled into believing that the crisis has passed or that another global pandemic does not lie lurking in our future. We are all exhausted from the pandemic’s impact, especially in communities of color and for individuals and families with special needs. The disruption to our day-to-day lives has been pervasive: from added responsibilities on parents (mostly moms) to educate children who have been shut out from in-person learning; to the emotional toll caused by isolation from family members, friends and work colleagues; to economic hardships for small businesses; to results of pandemic languishing that prompt feelings of lethargy—not quite in crisis, but certainly not flourishing—that afflict so many. We have been warned. We cannot let this happen again.
We cannot allow ourselves to be lulled into complacency. Rather we must be attentive to the ever-shifting signs around us and remain vigilant in both our individual behavior and in the public policies we support so that effects of future health crises can be dealt with directly and mitigated before they wreak havoc on an ill-prepared public.