As the clock ticks down on 2021, there are reasons to be optimistic and reasons to be cautious regarding a return to “normalcy” in the New Year, whatever that even means anymore in this age of abnormality.
In good news, Rhode Islanders came out in force to support their local small businesses this holiday season, swarming gift shops and boutiques throughout the Ocean State to buoy an industry that has been consistently battered throughout the past two years.
We can’t say enough about how reassuring it is to see that, even in an age where online shopping is the most convenient — and, frankly, safe — way to shop for whatever you may want or need, the importance of shopping small and shopping locally has not been lost on Rhode Islanders. We understand how vital these small mom and pops are to the continued longterm health of our local economies.
However, we must temper our enthusiasm once again with a healthy dose of reality — something we’re as weary writing about as you’re likely weary of reading.
The numbers regarding the newest Covid-19 variant, Omicron, are not encouraging.
In fact, they’re downright discouraging. Data has shown that this variant is exponentially more contagious, and seems to be specifically dismissive of vaccination status. Anecdotally, we have heard many cases occurring in vaccinated individuals, which is a cause for concern. Rhode Island was recently mentioned in the New York Times as having the highest rate of Covid spread per capita in the nation, despite having one of the country’s highest vaccination rates.
The dangers are the same as they were when this all started. Hospitals can easily become overwhelmed, leading to more fatalities and more strain on our already chronically-overworked healthcare professionals.
This is why it is so important to continue to exercise caution and decency in day-to-day living, despite our collective desire for all of this to simply be done with. The Governor’s mask/vaccine mandate is the right step, and should be adhered to by all businesses, big or small. People should wear masks when in the presence of others, regardless of vaccination status. Vaccines, and boosters, should be received as soon as possible. The state must adjust to this blooming crisis by opening more PCR and rapid test sites — as hearing stories of sites being fully booked weeks in advance and hours long wait times once an appointment is actually made are both evidence that the current response is simply not good enough.
Wishing for the best and hoping this will all go away is not good enough, and never has been. Government, business owners, and residents themselves must all play a part in preventing another huge outbreak of this highly contagious, dangerous illness — and by extension, possibly delaying our return to “normal” once again.
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