First of all, Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays, whichever is best for you!
This is not Christmas 2020, thank goodness. The only reason it’s not is the widespread accessibility of vaccinations. Without that protection we would still be shut down and enduring the kind of social isolation we were wrapped in last year. Imagine a second Christmas like 2020?
It is bad enough that new variants are sprouting up all around us and causing breakthrough cases, but at least those breakthroughs do not usually end up in hospitalization or death. As Dr. Jay Varma wrote in a recent New York Times piece, “In the time of Omicron, being ‘up to date’ (fully vaccinated and boosted) may only delay, not prevent, you from being infected, but it will protect you from becoming severely ill and help your community avoid running out of hospital beds.”
Thankfully 87% of Ontario County citizens over 65 are fully vaccinated. Sadly, 45% of Ontario county is not.
You and I becoming infected seems inevitable when something so simple as wearing a mask to help minimize spread, is widely resisted. Seneca County flat out acknowledged it won’t enforce the state mask mandate, and from the looks of it, many businesses in Geneva made the same decision. Some business owners do not see it as their job to enforce the mask mandate among patrons, but to allow their customers to flaunt it amounts to profiteering off spreader events of their own making.
As of last Saturday there were 504 COVID patients in Finger Lakes hospitals, 138 in ICUs. That is a lot and the region hasn’t even been fully victimized by the Omicron variant yet. Across New York 76% of ICU beds are occupied, and 82% of all available hospital beds are full. Since currently 80-90% of patients admitted for COVID are the unvaccinated, it is clear where and with whom the problem begins.
The pandemic provides a potent metaphor for the essence of the word “community.” That word gets attached to all kinds of things that are not community, i.e., “the sports community” or “the academic community.” Those are groupings of shared activities and enterprises not community.
Community is formed from relationships of interdependence, in which the well-being of each person is recognized as dependent upon the well-being of all the others. An authentic sense of community includes a deep acceptance of mutual dependence, and also caring and concern for one another within the community. Anyone with a true sense of community would know that being vaccinated and masked is not about their own personal preferences but the well-being of those sharing the society with them — about the health of the whole community.* In short, a sense of community would compel someone, out of compassion and love, to do whatever was needed to keep the community safer. So in this sense, no one is more hypocritical than those who don’t take basic precautions while lauding First Responders and medical personnel as heroes and claiming patriotic fervor.
May the spirit of Christmas infect some of the unmasked and yet to be vaccinated with a true sense of community. May that spirit grow within Geneva and beyond.
*I wish to acknowledge legitimate exceptions to vaccination due to medical conditions.