Many Texans, judging by the numbers, believe the pandemic has passed and they are safe to resume life in all ways. They are wrong. There are around 9 million eligible Texans who remain unvaccinated. They are the incubators for a virus that likely will mutate and re-emerge one day.

Closer to home, hundreds of thousands of eligible people in the San Antonio metro area remain unvaccinated. The good news for parents of children age 5 and older is that they, too, can now be protected.

The numbers are not as alarming as they were when the delta variant spiked, yet 132 Texans died Friday, the most recent one-day count available. More than 70,000 Texans have died since March 2020. More than 200 of the state’s 253 counties have fewer residents than that.

When I wrote about the pandemic in early August the statewide death count had surpassed 50,000. Nearly 20,000 Texans have died in the last three months, and people act like the pandemic has passed. Peaked? It certainly seems so. Ended? Unfortunately not.

Those of us who are fully vaccinated are working to restore normalcy into our daily lives, returning to the office at least a few days a week, frequenting favorite restaurants, bars, and coffee shops, attending a Spurs or UTSA football game, and enjoying the new hunting season that opened Saturday.

Yet the more prudent among us continue to use masks in close quarters or in public places where close contact with unvaccinated individuals is probable. There are still limits to the resumption of normal life.

Not so for everyone.

An estimated 50,000 adults and children crowded into NRG Park in Houston for the Astroworld Festival Friday night, an event that led to the tragic deaths of at least eight concertgoers when a tightly packed crowd surged toward the stage and led to panic.

A total of 75,000 people attended Austin City Limits over three days in early October. The event was staged outdoors in Zilker Park.

Organizers of both events required proof of vaccination or a 72-hour negative test. Masks were required at ACL and encouraged at Astroworld, but there were many social media reports of nonenforcement.

Attendance at University of Texas at San Antonio home games in the Alamodome has grown with each win, and likely will continue to do so as the team comes home from a 44-23 win over the University of Texas-El Paso with a 9-0 record to host Southern Mississippi this Saturday. I wore a mask while attending the UTSA game against UNLV in October, but most in the crowd of more than 20,000 did not.

I am fortunate not to have any pre-existing conditions, but I am getting my booster shot this week, a little more than eight months after receiving my second dose of the Moderna vaccine. I’ll celebrate my 69th birthday on Nov. 17, confident in my continuing good health, and equally important, the health of my wife, Monika Maeckle, and Hilde Maeckle, her 88-year-old mother who lives in a cottage on our property.

“Oma,” as our family matriarch is fondly called, will celebrate her 89th birthday on Nov. 27th. Like many her age, dementia has set in, but her memory of the distant past remains vibrant. She lost her husband John six years ago at age 93, and recently expressed regret that she no longer has a partner to dance the polka, waltz, or the schottische, dances they brought with them when they emigrated to Texas from Germany in the 1950s. What Oma does not know is that we will have a vaccinated dance instructor dropping by for a few birthday dances.

When my colleague Lindsey Carnett wrote about COVID-19 hospitalization trends in late September, she noted that nine out of 10 hospitalized COVID-19 patients in July were unvaccinated, while later, that number dropped to eight of 10 as more “breakthrough cases” of vaccinated individuals requiring hospitalization occurred. Even as our local positivity rate continues to trend low, it’s a reminder that vaccinations never have been 100% effective.

All the more reason to get the booster and to take sensible precautions to protect yourself, family, friends, co-workers, and the multitude of people streaming through our lives we will never know.

A few words of gratitude for the many people who responded with generous words of their own after reading last Sunday’s column recalling my decade here as editor and welcoming Leigh Munsil as our new editor. For those who asked what the first week was like, it was, in a word, wonderful.

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Robert Rivard

Robert Rivard, co-founder of the San Antonio Report, is now a freelance journalist.