After a year of having our lives disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, it has lately begun to feel as if a return to normal is in clear sight, but Gov. Jay Inslee’s just-announced pause in the progress toward fully opening the state is a sober reminder that there is still some distance to go before we can put the coronavirus in the rearview mirror.

Washington is now in the midst of the fourth spike in COVID infections. Rather than moving ahead to phase four of the reopening plan, several counties with rising case numbers and hospitalizations faced the possibility of being pushed back from phase three to phase two. Businesses like restaurants, gyms and bars would have their operational capacity knocked back from 50% to 25%.

Inslee decided on a two-week pause, rather than a retrogression, though, because the spike seems to have plateaued. It seems chances are good that, after this fortnight, we’ll start moving again toward a more open summer.

With luck, we will keep going in this direction, but it is worth keeping in mind the fact that, even with the high level of vaccinations in Seattle and much of the state, wide swaths of the wider world remain in the death grip of this disease. India, where only 2.2% of the population has been fully vaccinated, is looking like a lower rung of Hell with 24-hour-a-day funeral pyres unable to keep up with the accumulating corpses. If more virulent forms of the coronavirus emerge from India’s tragedy, our own dreams of a normal life may be rudely interrupted.

We are all in this together, not just from Seattle to Spokane, but from the Northwest to New Delhi.

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