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People wearing face masks walk past the logo

People wearing face masks walk past the logo of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games near the Shimbashi train station Friday in Tokyo. Credit: AP/Eugene Hoshiko

It's a time for dreams and dreamers. The Olympics are coming.

The Games are always a treasure chest of parables with their stories of dreams realized, dreams deferred, and dreams denied.

In that respect, this year is no different. For every athlete who fell agonizingly short of qualifying for Tokyo, there's a 21-year-old Mineola-born Andrew Capobianco who joyously made the U.S. men's diving team in two events.

But this year's Tokyo dreams also have a COVID tinge. The pandemic postponed the Games last year. And last week, organizers lowered another boom by banning all spectators from most events; previously, organizers had said crowds would be limited in size and only comprise those living in Japan.

The new announcement means virtually every marquee event will unfold in relative quiet, no one in the stands, no cheers ringing in any competitor's ears. It dashed for good any dreams families and friends had harbored of watching their loved ones on the world's biggest athletic stage. And it gutted one of the glories of the Games — the grand mixing of cultures and languages and experiences that occurs when hundreds of thousands of fans mingle during the Olympic fortnight.

You can't say the Japanese didn't have good reason. COVID-19 cases are rising in a country that did a great job with mitigation measures like ubiquitous mask wearing but an abysmal job with vaccination. Only about 20% of the country has received a first dose, and Tokyo itself is under its fourth state of emergency.

There's something to learn here about consequences, as we loosen our own coronavirus bindings. What we do now will have an impact later.

Nearly 50% of the United States is now fully vaccinated, 58% on Long Island. That's why case counts have been falling for months. But more than 50% of the nation is not vaccinated, and the number of shots given each day is declining. And case counts are inching up again.

The most recent weekly stats from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show a 3,000 daily increase in new cases nationwide from the previous week, up 13% for the week. Most of that is in areas with low vaccination numbers, virtually all of it among the unvaccinated. In New York, positive test results also are creeping up. The numbers are still very low — 0.94% of tests were positive in results announced Friday, but that was nearly triple the 0.35% rate from June 24.

Most of the rest of the world lags our vaccination numbers and it shows, especially with new, more transmissible variants like delta now in play. It took nine months for COVID-19 to kill 1 million people worldwide, three-and-a-half months to claim the next million, another 92 days for the third million, and 82 days to hit 4 million, which happened last week.

And while this is fueled primarily by surges far from our shores, we have learned by now that nothing far beyond our shores remains far beyond our shores.

Especially if we hit a plateau with our own vaccinations, as appears to be happening.

We're not likely to be suddenly overwhelmed with COVID cases again. But that will be scant comfort to those who do contract the virus, and their loved ones. Any reasonable qualms about the vaccines' safety and efficiency have long been dispelled — by the more than 3 billion shots given worldwide.

The immunocomprised for whom a vaccine is less effective or ineffective, the children not yet eligible and those whose parents won't let them get a vaccine, the people with medical conditions that do not allow them to be vaccinated — they all have dreams, too.

Dreams that depend on what the rest of us do.

Columnist Michael Dobie's opinions are his own.

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