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A woman receives her Moderna booster at the Stay Well Baton Rouge Community Health Fair, Dec. 4 at Mt. Pilgrim Baptist Church in Baton Rouge.

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

But a fifth surge?

In Louisiana, the shame-on-us crowd is a lot of people, and not just those it is now familiar to hear criticized, the unvaccinated population.

From just one or two cases, the highly contagious omicron variant has spread like a wildfire across the state, with every region affected. The new variant was the cause of a majority of cases in Louisiana in just a matter of weeks.

And the case numbers exploded, even as some testing sites were closed for the winter holidays.

The good news is that, so far, many people have a relatively mild case, although that can be painful enough even at home. Events have changed so rapidly in just days and authorities from President Joe Biden on down have had trouble keeping up with this new crisis. There can only be speculation about how a return to real winter weather would hurt Louisiana harder.

Our balmy days lately are not likely to continue. Any disease is going to flourish in closer quarters, whether in the cold northern states or the slightly less cold weather in our parts, when people are inside more.

The Louisiana Department of Health is working overtime to deal with issues raised by the omicron variant. And much of their advice is as familiar as the experience of the past two years: Even vaccinated people should wear masks in indoor public spaces, in any indoor space with people not in their immediate households, and outdoors if it's not possible to keep at least 6 feet from others

Social distancing is back, with a vengeance.

Authorities said people who can work remotely should, and everyone should limit exposure to persons outside their everyday household.


From experience, we wonder if exhortations like that will be enough and authorities like Gov. John Bel Edwards, who has not shrunk from doing what good science recommends in this crisis, will impose further requirements.

But if we would accept that, we would not welcome it. Society is at a low point as omicron threatens the progress made by our painful adjustments to the pandemic. A mask mandate is not a critical issue after all that, but it is not something that will provoke joy in anyone.

Especially the vaccinated, who at one time thought themselves a protected presbytery of the elect during the crisis. Omicron has brought social distances back into our lives.

That is not to say that vaccination is not a profoundly important way to protect oneself from disease.

The low rate of vaccinations in our state is indeed a criminal negligence on the part of thousands of our friends and neighbors. Many are paying for the mistake, as the Department of Health said about four in five patients in today’s surging hospitalizations are not vaccinated.

We deeply regret that. As no less than former President Donald Trump has said, the vaccinations and the booster shot ought to be taken by everyone eligible.

With medical resources and hospitals so stretched, Trump’s statements are welcome as in Louisiana we try to deal with the hand that we have been dealt.