COVID-19 and the holidays

12/16/2021, 6 p.m.

As we move into the holiday season, we urge all of our readers to not get carried away by the eggnog and the festive spirit. Rather, we hope everyone will remain vigilant against COVID-19 — to protect yourselves and your loved ones.

It is easy to get gloomy with the news this week that the United States hit another grim milestone in the seeming never-ending battle against the coronavirus. More than 800,000 Americans have now died from the virus.

The United States currently has the highest recorded national death toll of any other country, exceeding Brazil, with more than 616,000 deaths, and India, which has more than 475,000 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

American officials are always eager to crow about being No. 1, but this is a statistic in which being on top does not equate with excellence.

To put the death toll in perspective, the United States has lost twice as many people to COVID- 19 than we lost during World War II. The 800,000 total deaths exceed the separate populations of Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Boston, Atlanta and Charlotte, N.C.

The most recent 100,000 deaths came in just 11 weeks, officials said, which is a quicker pace than at any other point during the pandemic with the exception of last winter’s surge.

The numbers are one thing. The reality of 800,000 people gone is another. It means that so many families will be going through their first or second holiday season this year without a cherished loved one. There will be an empty place at the holiday dinner table and heavy hearts.

“To heal, we must remember,” President Biden said this week in addressing the U.S. death toll. “We must also act.”

We join him in urging those who haven’t been vaccinated to do so. Anyone age 5 and older now can get protected against COVID-19 with a scientifically proven vaccine approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And booster shots also are available for anyone age 16 and older.

Getting vaccinated is a way to honor those 800,000 people we have lost. It also will help ensure you and your loved ones will be around to celebrate the next important holidays. After all, it’s not what’s under the Christmas tree, but who’s around it.