Susan Bigelow head shot
SUSAN BIGELOW

The Eversource Hartford Marathon was run this weekend for the first time since before the pandemic, and while there were a few changes made to keep runners safe, the whole thing seems to have gone off much as it had in the past. The pictures are full of cheering spectators pressed close together – without masks.

That’s fine. Isn’t it? It has to be, because I keep seeing outdoor events like football games and concerts where there are huge crowds of unmasked people sitting right next to each other. There are some stadiums and events across the country requiring proof of vaccination, but for the most part we all seem to be assuming that outdoors is the same thing as safe and hoping for the best. 

It isn’t, of course. The Mayo Clinic and the Centers for Disease Control caution against crowds, even outdoors, and Dr. Anthony Fauci said he didn’t think it was “smart” to go back to in-person events like this back in September, not with the delta variant. And yet, people do it. Sometimes there are outbreaks and sometimes there aren’t.

It’s safer. But it’s not perfectly safe, not even for the vaccinated. 

But the reason the marathon happened as planned wasn’t because of some kind of neglect or wishful thinking, but because Connecticut is in a pretty good place right now. The delta variant surge of the summer seems finally to be letting up. The numbers tell the story:

Weekly COVID-19 case chart
A chart of the weekly totoal COVID-19 cases in Connecticut based on test data provided by the state Department of Public Health. Credit: Susan Bigelow / CTNewsJunkie

Weekly case counts stayed around 4,000 for most of August and September, cresting at nearly 5,000 for the week ending Sept. 22 before dramatically falling off to only about 2,800 for the week ending Oct. 6. This falloff mirrors national trends, believe it or not. Both raw case counts and number of cases per 100,000 people are falling all over the country.

What does that mean for the next few months? Are we really coming out of the pandemic for good, or is there more waiting for us just around the next corner? And what about vaccination mandates and all the awful politics around them?

This cycle of constant ups and downs has not been good for our already miserable politics. People who make a living by being loud and ignorant love to rile up their crowds with the numbers.

Nobody really knows, of course. But here are my best guesses.

This probably isn’t the end. While it’s good to see numbers falling, the onset of colder weather and the upcoming holiday season fueled the big winter surges in cases last year. It’s quite probable that something similar will happen this year, though the effects will be blunted in highly vaccinated areas. Sports and concerts are actually happening this year, too. Some venues will be requiring masks or vaccines or both, but not all. 

Realistically we’re probably looking at next spring for an actual end to the pandemic, unless a more contagious, vaccine-resistant variant starts spreading.

Delta taught us that variants can be nasty, unexpected things, and that they can halt all the progress we think we’ve made dead in its tracks. 

This cycle of constant ups and downs has not been good for our already miserable politics. People who make a living by being loud and ignorant love to rile up their crowds with the numbers. If numbers are going up, it’s all a conspiracy by Big Pharma to keep us as subjugated sheep. If the numbers are going down, it’s a sign that all the public health mandates need to go and that King Ned “Adolf” Lamont ought to be tarred, feathered, and run out of town.

Actually, they don’t even need numbers for the latter, they’ve been playing that tune for the better part of a year.

I predict – and I’m really going out on a limb here – that our politics are going to continue to be awful over the next few months. 

One side effect of that could be that companies and organizations considering vaccine mandates of some kind will use falling numbers and toxic politics as an excuse to do nothing. Pressure on school boards to do away with mask mandates will get more intense as the fear of delta subsides.

What that leads to is anyone’s guess. As we learned with delta, relaxing public health guidelines in the face of this kind of opposition leaves us wide open to the next variant that comes along.

Hopefully, children between the ages of 5 and 12 will be able to be vaccinated soon, which will help prevent the spread of the disease in schools. And hopefully high vaccination rates in Connecticut will continue to keep us safer than other parts of the country.

Nothing is ever guaranteed, though. The pandemic marathon trudges on.

Susan Bigelow is an award-winning columnist and the founder of CTLocalPolitics. She lives in Enfield with her wife and their cats.

The views, opinions, positions, or strategies expressed by the author are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or positions of CTNewsJunkie.com.

Susan Bigelow

Susan Bigelow is an award-winning columnist and the founder of CTLocalPolitics. She lives in Enfield with her wife and their cats.