As Bucks and Montgomery County residents hunted for a precious shot of COVID-19 vaccine, I saw reports indicating the number of new infections locally was on the decline, and, so, I thought, if there’s an effective drug in use we can throw away the masks and socialize at close range.

The ill-fated predicament must be over, I figured.

“Now that vaccines have been developed, there are many who feel the crisis is over” said Bucks Commissioner Vice Chairman Bob Harvie. “But we have to keep following the science and the protocols. We need to keep protecting the most vulnerable around us.”

So apparently it ain’t over yet and the pandemic punch-up must continue. Well, let’s take a look.

Since the unrelenting COVID-19 disaster began last year, there have been 38,025 cases and 1,010 deaths in Bucks, with the new-case count hitting as high as 340 a day at one point and hospital ICU beds pushed to the max.

A slower pace recently has begun, fortunately, with new COVID-19 cases in the county down 22 percent one week in early January and 18 percent the next. Meanwhile, the test positivity-rate dropped to 9.2 percent from 12.6. The county’s highest rate at 17.7 percent came in early December. Health officials say a rate of 5 percent or less indicates the virus largely is under control.

Sounds good to me -- and to authorities.

“Cases and hospitalizations are declining to levels we haven’t seen in a couple of months and our positivity rate has dropped below 10 percent,” said Dr. David Damsker, director, Bucks Health Department. “These trends are very good and, if everyone does their part, they will continue in the same direction.”

Why are some COVID-19 data shining brighter? I’ve got to believe the shots in the arm of a coronavirus vaccine also are a shot of hope for an end to this miserable ordeal -- shots county officials say they are “working diligently” to secure for thousands now eligible, and use in soon-to-be established county vaccination clinics.

Bucks residents can now register for a vaccine once eligible, and about 150,000 already have done so, according to the county Health Department. More than 56,000 doses of the vaccine have been distributed to 18 different providers in Bucks, largely hospitals tasked with vaccinating their own workers. Some 17,948 people have received the first dose in Bucks, while 5,770 have received both doses. The county runs an appointment-only clinic in Langhorne for EMS and healthcare workers not affiliated with a hospital, and says it hopes to establish vaccination sites in the near future.

With widespread vaccination we might see continue data improvement and finally say goodbye to pandemic measures and hello to normalcy.

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