Over the New Year’s weekend, I watched as television news carried worrisome stories about the COVID-19 Omicron variant spiking to record levels and causing overcrowded conditions at hospitals, exacerbated by absent Omicron-infected healthcare employees. In one report, a distraught medical doctor pleaded for people to get vaccinated, although he lamented for some it was too late. 

Television chronicled a plethora of scaled-back or cancelled New Year’s celebrations, most notably the annual Times Square gathering limited to 15,000, and thousands of airline passengers stranded by cancelled flights. Many college and professional sports leagues postponed games and placed players into quarantine. A couple of jockeys at Aqueduct racetrack were in isolation.

I also watched several televised college football bowl games, primarily the two national championship semifinal matchups on Friday, as well as a few National Football League contests on Sunday.  The stadiums were filled to capacity with ebullient and cheering fans sitting right next to one another, no masks and no social distancing.  A viewer watching only the games, would not know much, if anything, about the toll being wreaked by the surging pandemic.

The contrasting imagery was striking, as though there were parallel universes, one characterized by doom and gloom and the other carefree and full of life. The people in each universe seemed oblivious to what was transpiring in the other.

COVID-19 has altered daily life in a way almost everyone currently living has never experienced…and the near future remains uncertain. Will, for example, the virus abate by May so that horse racing’s Triple Crown events can commence in front of normal large crowds?  An expert from the Baylor University medical school predicts that the Omicron variant will crest and then subside after it has finished traveling across the United States in a month or so.

Let’s trust he is right…and that 2022 will truly be a Happy New Year!

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