Keeping track of the news about the coronavirus pandemic has become an ever-more wrenching exercise, as terrible news and positive news have whipsawed us back and forth between hope and despair.
It can feel like riding the most dangerous roller coaster in the world, knowing that people are always being thrown off and killed — and you might be next.
The number of daily COVID-19 infections is soaring to nightmarish levels, almost 150,000 by midweek, with more than one million infections since the first of November. In Maryland, cases have topped 1,000 every day for more than a week.
Hospitalizations are higher than ever, and deaths are rising fast, with many more almost certain to follow. It is the long-dreaded fall wave, just as predicted by Dr. Anthony Fauci and many other experts.
But … Pfizer has announced its vaccine candidate is exceeding expectations, almost 90 percent effective in preventing the disease in trials. If the Food and Drug Administration agrees, vaccinations might begin in December.
The accelerating rate of new infections in Maryland is so alarming, Gov. Larry Hogan announced this week he is re-imposing tighter restrictions on restaurants, bars and other public gatherings to limit the spread. He pleaded with all Marylanders to wear masks and take other precautions so he would not need to take further action.
The situation has become so worrisome, the Frederick County Council, executive and county Health Officer Dr. Barbara Brookmyer — acting as the Board of Health — will require everyone to wear a mask at certain indoor spaces and limit gatherings to no more than 25 people in residences and businesses. Limits were also mandated for outdoor spaces where physical distancing can’t be maintained with non-family members.
But … the Frederick County Public Schools board has approved a plan to start some in-class teaching in a hybrid model for the second semester of the school year in late January. It also gave the approval to resume high school sports next month. The board said it would go forward with the plan, barring any spikes in local health measurements, with close monitoring of athletes.
Except … Frederick County reported its second-highest daily number of COVID-19 infections during the pandemic Wednesday, the same day the board was voting to begin reopening schools. The 61 cases were surpassed by only the 74 infections on April 24.
In sports, the Big Ten conference bowed to public pressure and resumed playing football on Oct. 24. The University of Maryland’s football team has gotten off to a decent start, even posting a rare victory against rival Penn State.
But … the Terps game against Ohio State this weekend has been canceled because a number of its players tested positive for the coronavirus. It is the eighth major college football game scheduled for this weekend to be postponed or canceled because of coronavirus concerns, five of them involving Top 25 teams.
And so it goes, back and forth in the fight against this terrible pandemic. As we said last week, we are sick and tired of the virus, but it is not tired of making us sick.
Children do seem to be less susceptible to the worst effects of the virus, so maybe it will be OK if we open schools and resume sports. But what about the health of teachers, staff and coaches, the adults who must also return to classrooms and locker rooms?
The Pfizer vaccine and those from other companies may allow our country to get back to something resembling normal life by next summer. But what do we do until then? How can anyone plan for anything in this darkening, dangerous season?
The school board has to try to look ahead. Perhaps the plan for the second semester will be feasible by the end of January, though we remain skeptical of the December start of sports. If the pandemic worsens, the board is empowering Superintendent Terry Alban to delay implementation.
Gov. Hogan is hoping he will not need to adopt sterner measures, if only everyone would do their part, with masking wearing and social distancing.
The next challenge for our community, the state and the nation will be Thanksgiving. Will families be careful enough to avoid a new wave of infections crashing down by Christmas? We can only hope.
Listen to the doctors. Wear a mask, keep socially distant, wash your hands frequently, avoid crowds. We all know what needs to be done. Will we have the strength and the wisdom to do it?