Our former colleague, Doug Harlow, who passed away two years ago, used to say that when the Skowhegan State Fair arrives, summer’s coming to an end.

You might say he measured his years by that fair, which he loved to cover.

My late father also noted during the first week in August that there was a difference in the air, portending the onset of fall.

“It’s changed,” he’d say.

My husband, Phil, puts it another way:

“When the goldenrod blooms, we’ve had it.”

I don’t look at the upcoming, inevitable transition as harshly as that, but like my father, I tend to sense subtle changes in nature.

Some are welcome changes; others strike an uneasiness in my soul.

This year, I wonder about what lies ahead as summer turns to fall.

We have worked so hard in Maine to keep the coronavirus at bay, and it’s disconcerting that we’re now losing ground.

As spring turned to summer, we embraced the opportunity to travel, felt freer to enjoy outdoor events and dine at restaurants, breathe the coast’s salt air and visit museums and other places we’d been unable to patronize for months.

We operated on hope and optimism because we had fended off the virus so successfully, watched the number of new infections drop and eventually, saw few-to-no deaths.

We’ve enjoyed a sense of freedom that, unfortunately, is narrowing.

What could have continued to be a leg up on the virus, wasn’t to be, at least this time around.

Those of us who envisioned returning to the workplace are less hopeful; children anticipating going back to school, maskless and healthy, will likely have to wait.

How long? Who would have imagined that what was expected to be a couple of weeks away would become months, a year, and now, likely two or more?

We have spent many millions of dollars on vaccines, personal protective equipment, health care, building school additions to ensure students and staff have sufficient space, installed air exchange systems and developed remote learning programs.

Beyond that, people who work in health and child care, education and business in general have sacrificed personal time for the greater good.

It has been taxing for them, stressful.

And now we’re in a backslide because of those who choose not to be vaccinated and thus are helping to spread the virus.

Morning Sentinel columnist Amy Calder receives the first of her two COVID-19 shots March 6 at the Northern Light Inland Hospital clinic at Kennebec Valley Community College in Fairfield. Suzanne Mosher, a registered nurse who retired from Inland but still has her license, returned to help vaccinate people at clinics. Photo by Sara Barry

It could be another dark winter.

A friend told me recently that when, a few months ago, she announced to a colleague that she was getting vaccinated, the colleague warned her that she would “be tracked” — that the government would be able to follow her every move.

Let’s call such conspiracy theories what they are: Crazy and dangerous.

The fact is, hospitals are filling up in states such as Texas and Florida because people continue to refuse vaccinations. Most of those who are hospitalized did not get the shots. Where a year ago it was older people who were getting sick, now it is the young.

What will it take to change people’s minds, to curb the downward trend?

Using science and citing facts and figures to convince them apparently isn’t working so well. I’m not sure there’s another way except to have them experience the consequences themselves.

The unvaccinated will get sick or their friends or family members will. They will be on ventilators in hospitals, alone, struggling to breathe. Many will die. Those fortunate enough to survive could have long-lasting health problems.

The reality is, the air is changing all right, but unlike the transition from summer to fall which is inevitable, we humans have the power to alter the course of the virus. To fend off a dark winter.

Amazingly, the antidote is quite uncomplicated: Get vaccinated. Wear masks.

And before supporting anti-vaccination theories, read everything you can get your hands on about vaccine efficacy. Simply put, get educated.

Amy Calder has been a Morning Sentinel reporter 33 years. Her columns appear here Saturdays. She may be reached at [email protected]. For previous Reporting Aside columns, go to centralmaine.com.


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