The holiday season usually is the most wonderful time of the year. But Christmas, 2021, is anything but wonderful, even for those of us who are among the most fortunate in our society. Our collective stress and anxiety levels are at an all-time high thanks to the recent arrival of the Omicron variant of COVID-19, which has upended the holiday plans for many of us. Each and every day, the virus is killing almost 1300 Americans, a statistic that has become mind-numbingly routine. That figure still is well below the 3000 deaths per day a year ago at this time, but still, it translates into 500,000 deaths per year. Hospitals once again are at full capacity in many states, with coronavirus patients filling emergency rooms and crowding-out those who have other health issues.
This was not the scenario we had envisioned a few months ago, when it appeared that we had COVID-19 under control. For those of us who are fully-vaccinated with three shots of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines (or one J&J plus one of the those other two), the effects of the Omicron variant are proving to be fairly mild, akin to having a bad cold. But for anyone who is unvaccinated, infection with the Omicron variant is proving inescapable thanks to its high-degree of transmissibility. And as the statistics demonstrate, the chances of becoming seriously ill are dangerously-significant.
Although the pandemic has eviscerated the usual holiday celebrations that bring together family, friends, and colleagues, adding to our mental health issues, especially for older Americans, the toned-down holiday season offers us an opportunity for reflection, a chance to reach an appreciation for the things that really matter in our lives: The health and safety of ourselves and our loved ones, as well as the urgent need to assist those who find themselves in dire straits this holiday season. We hope that all of our readers will heed the warnings of our public health officials and that those with the means to do so will help the vast numbers of our less-fortunate fellow Americans. We wish all of our readers a merry — and safe — Christmas.