Last week the country experienced two record surges, one good and one bad. It’s impossible not to see the connection.

A record 85 million Americans cast their ballots in advance of the Nov. 3 general election. The turnout in Texas with extended early voting topped 9 million, exceeding the total vote count for the 2016 election. More than 675,000 votes have been cast in Bexar County, surpassing the total vote of 598,691 in 2016.

A record 150 million Americans are expected to vote in this election, with another 175,000 expected to go to the polls locally on Tuesday. Voters clearly are overcoming fears of the coronavirus to exercise their right to vote.

Yet the coronavirus numbers also are setting records. The pandemic here and abroad is intensifying rather than waning. San Antonio and Bexar County, where the number of cases has grown to the worst levels since August, has escaped record increases seen in nearly half the states.

Last week in this column I noted a new daily record of 82,154 cases recorded nationwide on Oct. 23, according to the Atlantic’s COVID Data Project. One week later, on Oct. 30, the United States recorded more than 99,000 new cases, another record in a week that saw more than 500,000 new cases. More than 9 million Americans have now been diagnosed with COVID-19, and nearly 230,000 have died.

The numbers and trend lines in a number of European countries are equally worrisome.

Pandemics, of course, pay no heed to elections, but Tuesday’s outcome likely will determine whether current measures largely set by state elected leaders to combat the virus remain in place under President Donald Trump, or whether a newly elected President Joe Biden implements new federal controls.

Science has been hijacked by the bitter political partisan divide that has set the nation on edge like no other election in living memory. One’s view of mask usage, social distancing, and strict controls over public gatherings is, for too many, a matter of political choice.

It would be good to see that change after the dust settles from Tuesday’s election, but the truth is many people do not expect the dust to settle. A same-day, definitive outcome in the presidential race seems unlikely, and the prospect of a prolonged and disputed outcome leading to social unrest and violence is feared by many.

It’s an open secret that federal, state, and local authorities, and the media, have planned for everything from voter intimidation by militia groups at the polls on Tuesday to post-election outbreaks of violence.

Anyone getting ready for the opening of hunting season in the Central Zone, which includes San Antonio and the Hill Country, knows that brisk ammunition sales have left many store shelves empty. It isn’t hunters driving those sales; it’s individuals anxious about their personal security. On Saturday, the Washington Post reported record gun and ammunition sales nationwide in advance of Election Day.

Hopefully, Election Day and the outcome will occur without undue incident, and people across the country will exhale. But even so, the air we share will still carry a deadly virus that remains uncontrolled. That means coming to terms with a prolonged reality where only universal adherence to public health measures will allow us to open the economy, schools, workplaces, and daily life.

This past weekend was the most muted Halloween in memory, and even Day of the Dead commemorations have been largely private or virtual. As the holiday season approaches, Thanksgiving and Christmas traditions, including some of the busiest travel days of the year, will not be the same. New Year’s celebrations will be skipped by many of us because a new year means nothing in terms of a pandemic’s life cycle.

Last week, organizers of the San Antonio Book Festival, always staged in April before the start of Fiesta, announced that the April 9-11, 2021, program will be virtual. Some in-person events could be scheduled if the pandemic eases, but organizers are planning for an online presentation of more than 75 authors. The signature gala luncheon, which will feature acclaimed novelist Amor Towles, will be staged this Nov. 30, also virtually.

“While the uncertainty of the coming months drove our decision, we are embracing the potential to reach a wider audience and elevate the Book Festival’s reputation on a national scale,” said Lilly Gonzalez, the festival’s executive director. “Are we disappointed? Of course. It’s another year that we don’t get to celebrate books in person with our festival friends. But the safety of our attendees, writers, moderators, and volunteers is our first priority.”

The news followed the announcement by organizers of South by Southwest in Austin that the March 16-20 arts and technology festival also will be virtual, SXSW Online. The prospect of more cancellations as 2021 approaches will only deepen pandemic fatigue, yet ignoring reality only prolongs our shared misery.

Voters in San Antonio and beyond can congratulate members of the congressional delegation elected to office next week and then press for bipartisan passage of a new stimulus bill that recognizes the pandemic was not a 90-day emergency. San Antonio’s hospitality industry, central to the local economy, is in desperate need of assistance beyond the reach of local officials. Tens of thousands of jobs are at stake, as is the entire convention and visitors sector.

Robert Rivard, co-founder of the San Antonio Report who retired in 2022, has been a working journalist for 46 years. He is the host of the bigcitysmalltown podcast.