By editorial board • 

Time to look on bright side: We're beating back this virus

It’s been almost a year since we last ran a positive headline on the COVID-19 crisis. And it was, “County: We’re ready for spread of virus” — a March 6, 2020, assessment that turned out to be spectacularly optimistic.

Just one week later, shock set in and we warned editorially, “State, county slow to move on fast-spreading pandemic.” Oregon had counted only 14 cases at the time, but China’s experience gave us a taste of what was surely coming.

It’s pretty much been all downhill from there.

Our two most recent editorials, appearing Oct. 30 and Jan. 8, respectively, were headlined, “Virus retaining its grip; new surge biggest yet,” and “Oregon’s vaccine rollout is lagging badly behind.”

Fortunately, all bad things must come to an end, and the end of this now seems in sight. A recent surge of progress on the immunization front enables us to sound a long-awaited note of optimism.

Thanks to a increased campaign, we are now vaccinating almost 1.5 million Americans a day. Already, more than 45 million first doses and 20 million second doses have been administered in a nation with an adult population of 210 million.

Oregon has been roundly and rightly criticized for lagging the nation in vaccination of its most vulnerable residents — those 65 and up, which number about 780,000. However, the state has now administered 835,000 doses in all, and is beginning to play catchup with its senior population.

Similar immunization efforts are being conducted around the world, and as a result, case counts are plummeting. Here in the U.S., the seven-day average has plunged almost 70 percent since the start of the year.

We’ve already lost 500,000 Americans. If we waited for herd immunity to ease the crisis, the death toll would climb into the millions. Thanks to the wonders of modern medicine and science, we don’t have to.

With two 95% effective vaccines now in the field in the U.S., and more in the wings, we can achieve functional immunity much more rapidly. Between infection and vaccination immunity, almost 40 percent of the nation’s adult population is already witnessing a large measure of protection.

This is no time to totally ease back on the masking, social-distancing and other protective measures helping serve to keep us safe. Thoughts of that would best be put on hold until the spring, if not the summer. But we are justified in looking forward to the return of a growing semblance of normalcy, as the wave of immunization gradually works its magic.

What’s more:

n So far, the threat posed by new COVID variants seems more theoretical than real. At worst, we may have to be getting new immunizations for COVID on an annual basis, as we already do for the flu.

n Fear of serious side-effects has proven almost entirely unfounded. There seems to be some potential for brief flu-like symptoms with the second dose, but that’s a small price to pay.

n Yamhill County was notified Tuesday that its COVID risk rating was being reduced from extreme to high, permitting the phased reintroduction of indoor dining and related regulatory relaxations. That represents a big step forward on the road to recovery.

It’s human nature to push toward the front of the line for potentially life-saving immunization, and to develop the best supporting arguments possible. More than most states, Oregon has fueled such a push by agonizing endlessly over the merits of various classes of supplicants, based on age, race, ethnicity, income, occupation, gender orientation.

However, a rising tide floats all boats.

Every person vaccinated is one less posing a threat to the rest. So there is value to all in each new shot going into someone’s arm, even if it’s not yet our own arm.

Intent nonetheless in boosting your personal and family prospects? Our best advice is to register with clinics, pharmacies, county public health and/or your primary care physician, and remain vigilant for mass immunization opportunities at convention centers, fairgrounds, hospitals and the like.

We would like to see Oregon conducting a smoother, faster and more senior-oriented rollout. It’s possible, as other states have amply demonstrated.

But the sharply increasing rate of vaccination and decreasing rate of infection suggests it may end up not mattering that much who ended up where in the line. While it’s been a long time coming, we appear poised to soon put this deadly scourge behind us.


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