I’ve been looking for an opportune time to drop the “Coronavirus Diaries” tag from this blog. Today seems as good as any. 

My colleagues and I have been back in the Times Building for a few weeks and today marks the end of a rule requiring us to wear masks when not at our desks. We are all still spaced out on different floors (as opposed to being “spaced out” in close quarters), but things are gradually returning to “normal,” or some version of how we once defined the word. 

It’s been a trying 506 days. More than 600,000 Americans are dead and inexcusable resistance to getting vaccinated is squandering our chance to reach herd immunity. Just over 46% of the total US population has been vaccinated, according to the CDC. Big surprise: Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Wyoming — all blood-red, rock-ribbed, Fox “News”-watching states — are among those with the lowest vaccination rates, with less than 35% of their populations fully vaccinated.

That’s good news for the “delta variant” of COVID, which is more infectious and thus more easily spread. The variant is surging in places with low vaccination rates. Hospitalizations are quietly creeping up, and health officials warn a deadly “third wave” could overwhelm health care systems that still haven’t recovered from the first two.   

“It’s going to hyper-regionalized,” Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration, told CNN. “There’s certain pockets of the country where you’re going to have very dense outbreaks.”

Such outbreaks seem unlikely in Pennsylvania, where 50% of all residents 18 and older are fully vaccinated and more than 68% have had at least one dose. As of last Thursday, Lackawanna County had 57% of adults fully vaccinated and 70.2% with at least one dose.

Luzerne had 47.1% fully vaccinated, 59% with one dose; Monroe, 40.3% fully vaccinated, 53.3% with one dose; Pike, 37.5% fully vaccinated, 50.1% with one dose; Susquehanna, 35.4% fully vaccinated, 43%with one dose; Wayne, 46% fully vaccinated, 56.5% with one dose; and Wyoming, 44.1% fully vaccinated, 56.6% with one dose. Overall, the seven-county region was at 47.1% fully vaccinated and 59% with at least one dose.

So the outlook here is pretty good. That doesn’t mean the pandemic is over, but we can breathe a little easier and be a little more sure the end is in sight. If you’re not vaccinated, please get it done. It’s easy, safe, free. and the most patriotic thing you can do with the 4th of July coming up.  We can’t declare independence from COVID if you won’t take the shot heard ’round the world. 

On that patriotic note, I hereby file what I hope is my final “Coronavirus Diary.” It’s time to move on. Probably.