Editorial: There are reasons for optimism, but the pandemic is not over yet

The past year has been extremely difficult for most Americans. People have been isolated in their homes. Millions lost their jobs as COVID-19 restrictions brought most of society to a halt. Fourteen months after the pandemic began, nearly 600,000 people have lost their lives due to the virus.

However, there is some reason for optimism. The White House announced on Tuesday that half of American adults are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. As of May 23, over 44% of people are fully vaccinated in Washington.

The CDC has released new guidelines for vaccinated people which will allow them to live more closely to their pre-pandemic lives. Those who are fully vaccinated don’t need to socially distance or wear masks indoors or outdoors in most instances.

The U.S. is averaging about 25,000 cases a day over the past week, which is the lowest rate in nearly a year. Over the last week, an average of 568 people have died of COVID-19 in the U.S. While this is still tragically high, it is also the lowest rate since the pandemic began in March of 2020.

Two weeks ago, Gov. Jay Inslee announced that every county in the state is on track to fully reopen by June 30. Washington has also announced they plan for all K-12 schools to be open full-time for in-person learning in the fall.

Events that bring us closer together are also returning. Both the Seattle Mariners and Sounders have reopened their stadiums for the season with limited capacity. The Seahawks are currently planning to open their stadium at full capacity in the fall. While these announcements may seem like small victories, the last time fans were allowed at a Mariners game was September of 2019.

While things are positive domestically, there are troubling signs and news internationally. India has reported nearly 27 million cases of COVID-19 and over 300,000 deaths as of May 24. In Argentina, more than 3.5 million people have been diagnosed with COVID-19. Nepal is also facing a concerning rise in cases, with one doctor saying their “medical infrastructure is in crisis. The oxygen supply-demand gap is huge. We also have no more vaccines.”

If we truly want the pandemic to be over and to get back to our normal lives, as many people worldwide must get vaccinated as soon as possible. Current data shows that the vaccine protects against different strains of the virus. But as the virus spreads and mutates, there could be a strain against which the vaccine is not effective.

While it seems like we can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel, we still need to do more to finally reach it.