Friday night I walked the railroad track that runs alongside McPike Park in Madison as the La Fête De Marquette drew thousands to the large band stage as music wafted over the neighborhood and the aroma of festival food lingered in the humid air. It was as close as I ventured to an event that had been a part of my summer routine since moving to our home on the isthmus in 2007.
Though James and I sit for dinner at outside tables and enjoy the laughter and wide-ranging conversations at cookouts and backyard gatherings I have forgone the big-screen movie magic this summer of Elvis. We wear a mask when grocery shopping or a quick hardware store run, and certainly would not wade into the throngs of closely packed people at a festival. As I looked at the dense crowd I thought of the statistic I read this week reporting only a third of the American population has received at least one booster shot.
COVID is still a real health care concern in the nation. Omicron subvariant BA.5 is racing about and infecting millions in the United States. I understand that many are simply tired of the virus and have made a conscious decision to go about their lives as if the chapter has ended. As I walked past the festival and then onwards for a longer trek in the neighborhood I thought about what might happen should another virulent variant start to spread around the nation.
The concern the public needs to be aware of is the growing number of cases of this latest variant attacking those who previously had contracted COVID. The need to mask up in buildings and movie theatres is not hard to reason, while the slow pacing of more concrete and strict orders from the CDC and governmental units is hard to fathom.
A neighbor who is a believer in science contacted public health offices in Madison and Dane County asking when they might be more vocal about the need to again mask up. It was reported the offices replied they certainly advise awareness of the virus, but would not at this time be more active in their statements.
One does have to ask, given the current fast-spreading variant, what lessons were learned over the past two years about how to deal with and stem an outbreak of disease? This past week the World Health Organization made it quite clear when stating “the virus is running freely”. While it is obvious that large percentages of the population have opted to think the virus is no longer a factor in how they conduct their lives, governments must be mindful of the mission at hand.
While many viruses tend to weaken as they mutate, others do not. Medical professionals have urged governments to be prepared regarding COVID for the “expected wave in the autumn and winter seasons”.
We need to make sure Congress understands that more funding is required so to further study COVID and ensure that the needed medical stockpiles for further outbreaks will be adequate to the needs of the nation. This year President Biden requested $22.5 billion for COVID funding, but due to partisan sniping, our elected officials were only able to appropriate half of the request.
Readers to this little place on the internet highway fully know my resolve in seeing Russian aggression pushed out of Ukraine. The massive amounts of funding to accomplish that end is a bill this nation, along with our international allies, must pay. And Congress, for the most part, has anted up. And quickly.
But that same stridency for missiles and armaments for the Eastern European war must be employed in the fight against the variants of COVID, and whatever future medical mysteries confront our people.
The festival crowd may not know or care that this pandemic continues. Our local, state, and national governments, however, must not only know about the dangers, but act accordingly for the citizens they have a responsibility to protect.