By Barrett Seaman—
Experts are said to be scratching their heads over the recent upsurge in coronavirus infections in New York State. We’re supposed to be in the final stretch—the end of the pandemic; about a third of New Yorkers have had at least one shot of vaccine. Here in Westchester, over 15% of residents have been fully vaccinated; another 15% have had one dose. As of Thursday, the four main vaccination sites in the county have administered 215,000 doses. Anyone over 30 years of age is now eligible for a vaccine and by next Tuesday, anyone 16 and older can get one.
So why is it that the infection rate in the county has gone up, with 584 new cases on the last day of March alone?
Perhaps it is one of the more transmissible variants, said to be spreading through the area. Or perhaps it is something simpler.
On Thursday, Dr. Sherlita Amler, the county’s Health Commissioner, pointed out some numerical patterns: after a light summer of infections, Halloween came along, and with a few big parties here and there, the daily total of new cases in Westchester went from around 100 to 300-a-day, then subsided. Then came Thanksgiving, with families gathering in close quarters, and the rate jumped to 600 cases-a-day. In the weeks following Christmas and New Years—more family gatherings and parties, the rate jumped to over 1,000. From the bad days of late January/early February, the new infection numbers began to subside again, which, coupled with the arrival of adequate supplies of vaccine, brought hope that the end was really in sight.
But no, since mid-March, the numbers have been climbing again. Was it a coincidence that spring break was happening—party time? And now, we are in the midst of Passover and Holy Week, culminating in Easter Sunday, when once again families gather for seder dinners, Paschal feasts and Easter Egg hunts. People are getting together in close quarters. And they are suffering from pandemic fatigue like never before, taking their masks off, hugging their cousins, huddling in close-in conversations.
“That close contact acts to spread the disease,” said Dr. Amler, repeating what everyone knows—or should. At that seder dinner or Easter lunch, “it takes only one covid-positive person to spread that disease to every single person there.”
“What happens with this pandemic,” the Health Commissioner stressed, “is up to each and every one of us individually.”
The advice is what it has been: wear a mask; wash your hands; socially distance; limit your indoor gatherings to ten people or less and outdoor (if it’s warm enough) to 25.
If not, don’t be surprised if the numbers of new infections towards the end of the second week of April spike up. And when they do, they give those pesky little killer viruses another chance not only to survive but also to mutate again, cleverly searching for the right genetic formula to beat the vaccines—and eventually us.