COVID tracker: A year ago vaccines brought hope we’d be better off than we are today

  • NH DHHS—Courtesy

Monitor staff
Published: 11/14/2021 2:00:12 PM

Almost exactly one year ago, after Pfizer announced that it was applying for emergency approval of the first viable COVID-19 vaccine, I wrote this for the Monitor’s weekly pandemic tracker:

“Manufacturing and distribution is going to be a real headache but there’s a good chance that by next Thanksgiving life will be back to at least three-quarters of what it used to be – although with less commuting, fortunately, and fewer bars and restaurants, unfortunately.”

That was 51 weeks ago (sometimes it feels like 51 years) and “next Thanksgiving” is coming up. Are we back to three-quarters of what used to be?

A lot of people think we’re all the way back, judging from the decline of mask-wearing in public and the crowds I see in restaurants and grocery stores. But reality says otherwise, with new cases, hospitalizations and deaths all rising in New Hampshire and neighboring states despite our relatively high vaccination rate.

We have three times as many people in the hospital with COVID-19, and three times as many daily deaths, as we did a year ago when I called our pandemic numbers “dismal.”

 Continued flare-ups around the world in once-safe places like western Europe and New Zealand show how the Delta variant has raised the bar on how we’re going to have to behave if we want to see a post-pandemic world. More than half the world has yet to be vaccinated at all, leaving huge reservoirs of people in which the SARS-CoV2 vaccine can thrive and mutate again and again.

Speaking of reservoirs, it turns out that white-tailed deer carry the virus quite well. That doesn’t mean they can spread it to humans – lots of viruses don’t cross between species – but it’s a worrisome reminder that we’re not going to get rid of COVID-19 any time soon. Ignore the anti-vax blowhards and take the precautions that you know you should: full vaccination for yourself and your children, boosters if appropriate, and continued mask-wearing in crowds.

As for other parts of last year’s prediction: Manufacturing and distribution of vaccines has proved to be relatively straightforward, although getting enough people to use this miraculous prevention has been unreasonably difficult.

Commuting has, alas, returned in full force as anybody sitting in traffic knows.

Restaurants and bars have weathered the pandemic better than I feared they would, thanks partly to government support and partly to their flexibility in developing off-site and outside service, but this is going to be another tough winter for them. I’m afraid their numbers are going to shrink even more before the warm weather returns.

As for what we’ll be seeing 51 weeks from now, I’m going to make a prediction. This weekly COVID tracker will no longer exist in November 2022. Not because I’ve gotten so sick of writing it that I’ve run off to the Maine woods and become a hermit; it will have ended because after one last surge in cases over the winter, the pandemic will have damped down so much that we don’t need to follow it closely.

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How are we doing on vaccinations? Edging up, but slowly.

The CDC says 63% of the state’s population is fully vaccinated. That is the lowest percentage in New England by a good bit – the other states are all between 70% and 72%.

What’s the trend on the spread and impact of the disease? Worsening.

Daily new-case count is above 600, the number of people in the hospital is above 240 and the number of people dying with COVID-19 is now above 4 a day, on average. All those numbers are the level of last January and are much worse than they were a year ago as we began last winter’s surge. 

(David Brooks can be reached at 369-3313 or or on Twitter @GraniteGeek.)

David Brooks bio photo

David Brooks is a reporter and the writer of the sci/tech column Granite Geek and blog, as well as moderator of the monthly Science Cafe Concord events. After obtaining a bachelor’s degree in mathematics he became a newspaperman, working in Virginia and Tennessee before spending 28 years at the Nashua Telegraph . He joined the Monitor in 2015.

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