Our second COVID-19-impacted Christmas certainly feels more normal than the first one last year when dread and isolation weighed down the festivities. But it is not fully normal, yet.

Shoppers are back in stores, but lots of the items we would like to see under the Christmas tree are, instead, sitting inside a container on a big ship marooned in a harbor waiting to be unloaded. Folks are celebrating indoors at restaurants once again, but, in this corner of the country anyway, no one is getting in without proof of vaccination.

And we are waiting to hear if the new omicron variant of the coronavirus will be thwarted by our current vaccine regimen or if it is going to send us all back into social distancing and wariness until a specific vaccine for the mutation is available.

There is one hopeful possibility suggested by early study of omicron. Though it is more highly infectious than other strains of the virus, it might prove to be less lethal. If that turns out to be the case, that could be an early sign that COVID-19 is shifting from being pandemic to endemic. In other words, it will always be around, but will be treatable and tolerable like the annual flu.

That hope could be dashed once more is learned about the variant. Still, compared with where we were last Christmas, we are now far better prepared to deal with a new onslaught of the pandemic. And that is something to brighten the season.

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