In this second week of 2022, the Omicron-driven COVID-19 wave continues to surge across the globe. In the Philippine regions affected by typhoon Odette (international name Rai), worry about COVID-19 is compounded by the storm’s aftereffects. Over three weeks after the typhoon hit on Dec. 16, power has not yet been fully restored in affected areas and many of those affected continue to struggle for bare necessities.
It is a week fraught with worry. But it is also a week tinged with hope. Across the country, we look to the future. Booster doses of the vaccine, which will help protect against Omicron, are being administered. If the news is to be believed, vaccines for younger children and infants are months away from becoming available. Power is slowly being restored in typhoon-affected areas. And for those involved in campaigns, preparations begin for the 2022 elections.
This week, we talk about transitions.
It seems impossible to talk about the prevailing mood without talking about the COVID-19 epidemic. As the 2021 Christmas season neared, it seemed the virus had decided to give the country a break. New cases fell to a few hundreds a day and active cases fell below 10 thousand.
Even as the first few cases of Omicron were detected in incoming, quarantined travelers in early December, new cases remained low throughout December. This was not to last. By Dec. 29, daily new cases doubled from the previous day’s 421 to 889. Fast forward to this week.
On Jan. 10, total Philippine active COVID-19 cases hit 157,526, a four-fold increase from last Monday’s 24,992 and a whopping 15-fold increase over total active cases two weeks ago of 9,579.
While these numbers seem frightening, we need to look beyond them. We need to remember that the focus of our fight against this disease is two-fold: prevention and mitigation. Our health protocols of masking, social distancing, isolation, and quarantine are meant to prevent the spread of infection. However, just as important, and perhaps even more so, is to prevent the severe presentations of the disease.
Let’s look at those numbers again and remove mild and asymptomatic cases. Active moderate cases have dropped from 3,339 on Dec. 27 to 2,858 on Jan. 10. Active severe cases dropped from 1,777 on Dec. 27 to 1,461 on Jan. 10. Active critical cases dropped from 374 on Dec. 27 to 301 on Jan. 10.
Now, before we rejoice, we must remember that there is a time lag from onset of the disease to progression to moderate, severe or critical. We must still work on controlling the spread of infection. But there seems to be room for cautious optimism that, first, the vaccines are preventing severe forms of the disease and second, that Omicron is far less deadly than Delta, as the experience of other countries such as South Africa and the UK seems to show.
2020, the first year of the pandemic was a year of uncertainty. It was a year of ups and downs and many of us were in a holding pattern, essentially in a mode of “observe and adjust.” 2021, the second year of the pandemic, while still full of volatility, also came with more information as well as more tools. In the medical area, vaccines and treatments became available. In our personal lives as well as at work, we learned to adjust. We learned to work from home and shop from home. As the vaccine became available, economies gradually opened. Even in the wake of the rude shock of the Delta variant, countries began the slow path to recovery. Schools opened for face-to-face classes and people began to travel.
As 2022 begins, we are faced with a new variant, one much more infectious though less deadly. Countries around the world are once again instituting mobility restrictions. But a few things have changed since 2020. We now have more information and tools at hand for dealing with the virus. More importantly, we have emerged from the near paralysis and panic of the early days of the pandemic.
We are now far less focused on worry and more focused on what can be done. We have begun to transition.
Transitions have been the theme of the pandemic for many of us. Businesses pivoted. Community markets emerged. Across the world, we began to focus more on health and peace of mind. The home, for so long just a place to sleep and perhaps recover during the weekend, became the center of our lives. We began to care about out gardens and homes. We discovered or rediscovered the joys of cooking, baking, and gardening. Released from the daily commute and the tyranny of the 8-hour day, we reconnected with family, friends, and more importantly our inner selves. Prevented from going out to malls, we rediscovered the joys of nature, either while walking or biking.
Many of the personal stories from 2021 are stories of change and transition, of embracing the future. While 2020 was about postponements, from business openings to weddings, 2021 was about ceasing the moment. It was a year for choosing to live our life. It was a year when we decided that the epidemic was not a reason to put our lives on hold. In a very real way, 2021 was year of quiet triumph. It was the year we took our lives back.
My personal story is both the same and different. I ceased the moment in 2020, opting for early retirement by the end of the year. In many ways, my 2021 was a year of dealing with the unfinished. But it was also very much a year of choice. For the first time in a very long time, I was free of the confines of a job. This freedom of choice is a heady thing, a grace and a temptation.
As we begin 2022 and face Omicron, I will do what everyone must. I will look at the choices before me and choose the one that leads to a better future. Have a great week everyone.
Readers can email Maya at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or visit her site at http://integrations.tumblr.com.