In recent weeks we have seen the return of beloved community festivals and the continued decline of COVID-19 cases, with some counties even clearing all active cases for a time — something not seen in months.

The Warsaw Firemen’s Carnival made a triumphant return during the Fourth of July holiday, one of the first major community festivals since the pandemic began in March 2020.

This past weekend was one of the GLOW region’s busiest: Perry marked its 15th annual Chalk Art Festival with an appropriate theme, “Stranger than fiction”; the beloved Teddy Bear Parade once again brought a crowd of children, adults, and all kinds of teddy bears and other stuffed animals marching down Geneseo’s Main Street as part of the Geneseo Rotary Summer Festival; while down the hill from Main Street vintage warbirds soared and an F-22 Raptor screeched over the National Warplane Museum’s airshow, which used a new COVID-conscious drive-in format and continued its “Operation Thanks from Above,” recognizing healthcare workers, first responders and other essential workers that have carried us through these past 16 months of an unprecedented public health crisis.

Locally, the pandemic’s trends have been encouraging. New York has lifted many of its restrictions. Vaccinations have allowed families to gather, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that breakthrough infections – cases in which fully vaccinated people test positive for COVID-19 – represent only a small percentage of all vaccinated people and that, to date, no unexpected patterns have been identified in the case demographics or vaccine characteristics among people with reported vaccine breakthrough infections. (However, the CDC doesn’t count every breakthrough case. It stopped counting all breakthrough cases May 1 and now only tallies those that lead to hospitalization or death, a move that has drawn criticism from health experts who note that years and years of data are not available compared to other vaccines.)

All this may have us feeling as if life is returning to normal. Be careful. We must continue to carefully manage our interactions and soberly assess risks associated with our actions.

While New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo touted New York’s arrival at the 70% benchmar— the number of New York adults who have received at least one dose of the vaccine against coronavirus, and the minimum level that CDC and the World Health Organization say is needed to reach herd immunity against a disease – that is not the case everywhere. Each of the four GLOW-region counties, for example, is far from that threshold. Data shows that the number of residents who have received at least one COVID-19 vaccination show range from a high of 51.2% in Livingston County, to a low of 45.2% in Orleans County. Wyoming County was at 45.7% and Genesee at 50.5%. The number of people who have completed the vaccine is even lower.

The significant percentage of people who remain unvaccinated, and children and other people who cannot get doses, means infections and more serious illnesses are not yet behind us.

We are not back to normal. Not yet. But we are getting there. It would be a shame if, in an effort to enjoy all that summer has to offer in our region, we slip back into a wider spread of the disease. Be patient. Protect yourself and others. And know that every vaccination brings closer the end of the pandemic.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1