So everything is back to normal. Except it’s not. At all.

News in Vermont that the state is shutting down testing at the same time that Rutland Regional Medical Center announced it has designated a general wing of the hospital for COVID-19 unit in response to an increase in virus-related hospitalizations seems … counterintuitive.

Have we officially entered the don’t-ask-don’t-tell phase of the pandemic?

Does information really go underground while testing soon will be up to pharmacies and doctors’ offices? It is as though the state is telling people to figure this out for themselves and then taking away the tools they need to figure this out for themselves.

Case counts have been high across the state.

Yesterday marked the final daily dashboard update from the state Department of Health. It reported there were 379 new COVID cases in Vermont. There were 61 individuals hospitalized due to the pandemic; six of them were in the ICU. In Rutland County, there were 60 new cases reported (with 667 case reported over 14 days). In Washington County, there were 45 new cases on Wednesday (with 481 cases reported over 14 days).

Since the start of the pandemic in March 2019, there have been 654 deaths in Vermont.

Vermont is not unique. In fact, the Associated Press reported that COVID-19 cases are increasing in the United States — and could get even worse during the coming months. Federal health officials warned Wednesday in urging areas hardest hit to consider reissuing calls for indoor masking.

Hospitalizations are up 19% in the past week, though they remain much lower than during the omicron wave. Increasing numbers of COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations are putting more of the country under guidelines issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that call for masking and other infection precautions.

Notably, the U.S. death toll from COVID-19 hit 1 million this week. The confirmed number of dead is equivalent to a 9/11 attack every day for 336 days. It is roughly equal to how many Americans died in the Civil War and World War II combined. It’s as if Boston and Pittsburgh were wiped out, the AP noted as comparisons.

Three out of every four deaths were people 65 and older. More men died than women. White people made up most of the deaths overall. But Black, Hispanic and Indigenous American people have been roughly twice as likely to die from COVID-19 as their white counterparts.

Most deaths happened in urban areas, but rural places — where opposition to masks and vaccinations tends to run high — paid a heavy price at times.

The death toll less than 2½ years into the outbreak is based on death certificate data compiled by the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics. But the real number of lives lost to COVID-19, either directly or indirectly, as a result the disruption of the health care system in the world’s richest country, is believed to be far higher.

The U.S. has the highest reported COVID-19 death toll of any country, though health experts have long suspected that the real number of deaths in places such as India, Brazil and Russia is higher than the official figures.

The U.S. is averaging about 300 COVID-19 deaths per day, compared with a peak of about 3,400 a day in January 2021. New cases are on the rise again, climbing more than 60% in the past two weeks to an average of about 86,000 a day — still well below the all-time high of over 800,000, reached when the omicron variant was raging during the winter.

And the omicron variant spread much more easily than earlier versions.

Some experts are worried the country now is seeing signs of a sixth wave, driven by an omicron subvariant. There has been a steady increase in COVID-19 cases in the past five weeks, including a 26% increase nationally last week.

So while we are grateful health care providers are doing all they can to service the state’s need for these latest victims of COVID, there are optics to consider.

It is not lost on anyone that we are about to embark on a heated election cycle that will culminate in November.

As long as there is COVID, we will have workforce and economic challenges. No magic wand was waved to bring us back to “normal.” But the tools got shoved in the junk drawer, at least until Election Day, apparently.

These are not normal times.

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(1) comment


well said; what a tragic vacuum of leadership, because of which, many more innocents will suffer and die

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