Don’t panic.

It won’t do you any good. It’ll add to your stress, possibly enough to affect your health, and it’ll leave you less able to think rationally.

And we need you thinking rationally. We all need to think rationally as this monstrous disappointment, this Omicron variant of the novel coronavirus, spreads like wildfire and puts an end to any idea that we were going to “defeat Covid.”

No, we’re going to have to live with Covid — just as we’ve been living with the flu for the last 100 years. The influenza pandemic struck in 1918, killed 675,000 Americans and roughly 50 million people worldwide and lasted about two years. Then the virus mutated into a less deadly form. But it never left and reportedly still kills tens of thousands of people a year in the United States alone.

Covid has now been around for about two years. Nearly 810,000 Americans have died with it, a much larger share of the nearly 5.4 million fatalities worldwide than was the case 100 years ago. The reasons why — whether our outrageously high rates of obesity, a key comorbidity, the former administration’s flawed response, the current administration’s premature declaration of victory, the refusal of so many people to get vaccinated, the inherent difficulty of imposing mandates on a free people, whether all these and more — will continue to be debated well into the future.

For now, we have to deal the best we can with a huge spike in cases. In Queens, the seven-day average of new infections, both confirmed and probable, was 2,306 on Dec. 19, compared to 181 on Halloween, just before they started to rise. Citywide, the figures are 7,888 and 833, respectively.

But hospitalizations look nothing like that — yet. The seven-day average for new ones in Queens on Dec. 19 was 19, compared to eight on Oct. 31. Citywide, the figures were 82 and 29, respectively. And in both cases, the number actually has been going down for several days. That’s great, though it cannot last with the number of new cases appearing. We can only hope the increase is manageable.

There is a chance the Omicron variant is less virulent than Delta and its predecessors. Preliminary studies point that way, though it’s too early to be certain. And one has to consider factors such as whether Americans can withstand Omicron as well as people in South Africa, where it was first recorded, when those here are, to be blunt, so much fatter overall. Obesity kills when it comes to Covid.

But don’t panic. It won’t do you any good. Instead, apply common-sense measures to protect yourself. First, get vaccinated — all three shots. No, the vaccines do not necessarily prevent you from catching Covid, but they do reduce the severity of disease — and that’s what you want, both for your own sake and to keep our healthcare system from being overwhelmed with patients. Also, though we don’t like it any more than you do, wear the mask. Not alone in the car, not on a deserted street, but anywhere indoors in public places and outdoors wherever people are close.

The other thing we must do is not destroy our society. That means a number of things. There can be no further lockdowns. People who get Covid but have nothing more than the sniffles should not have to isolate for 10 days if they then test negative after just a couple of days. Schools must stay open. Once mayor, Eric Adams should allow restaurants to heat their outdoor structures with propane just as they did last winter. Drinks to go should be allowed again.

We simply have to remain able to go about our lives, to retain our freedom and to learn to live with Covid, even while protecting ourselves with common-sense measures. And through it all, don’t panic.

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