The real reason coronavirus numbers keep getting worse

A week ago president-elect Joe Biden again shared his prediction that the nation was headed towards a "very dark winter," at which time U.S. News & World Report says we were headed towards our 10 millionth case. As of today, The New York Times reports that we are at 11.2 million, and so far, there have been nearly a quarter of a million deaths. What's really shocking is that in many states, the rate of infection appears to be steadily on the rise, as shown by COVID-tracking data from CNN Health.

While the news regarding Pfizer's and Moderna's latest vaccine trials has us all feeling more optimistic about the long-term prognosis for the virus, the fact remains that it won't do us much good if we don't manage to survive until the vaccine is widely available to everyone. In the meantime, however, the grim infection count just keeps on soaring. Why is the virus roaring back with a vengeance, or did it ever actually go away?

Too many of us have grown complacent with our COVID precautions

The way the U.S. Surgeon General sees it, the recent surge in coronavirus cases is most likely due to "pandemic fatigue." Jerome Adams recently told NPR that everyone's been social distancing, wearing masks, quarantining, and taking other mitigation measures since February or March, and many are just plain tired of it. Over the summer, we could at least get together and engage in social activities outdoors where there was less risk of virus transmission, but now that the cold weather is here again, people are tempted to get back to indoor holiday celebrations with friends and family.

In fact, an Axios/Ipsos poll indicates that 18 percent of respondents plan to celebrate the holidays as they normally do without taking any precautions. What's more, Christmas shopping may be particularly perilous this year, as by late October the numbers of those saying they always kept their proper 6-foot distance had slipped to 47 percent, way down from a high of 67 percent back in April.

So is a new lockdown in the cards? We certainly hope not, but Adams warns to do your part by minding what he calls "the three Ws:" wash your hands (and disinfect other surfaces), wear a mask, and watch your distance from everybody else. Sure, it's a pain in the you-know-what, but true holiday spirit means making sure that you, your loved ones, and everyone else you encounter survive to see a new year.