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Springing back

A web of tracks from snowmobiles and sleds reflects the sun Friday afternoon on Lake Colby in Saranac Lake. (Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)

Many of us had been enjoying the winter. It wasn’t that cold, but it also hadn’t thawed, so it was great for outdoor recreation. Skiers, snowmobilers and ice anglers were all happy.

Snow shovelers, not so much, but hey, that’s good exercise, too.

But when we went out in the warm sunshine on 50-plus-degree Wednesday and Thursday, we knew we were ready for spring. We felt it in our bones.

Yet with that warmth comes warnings and work. Now may not the time to walk out on frozen lakes and ponds, unless you really know what you’re doing. Hiking at this time of year requires more gear than ever: lots of layers, with changes for when they get wet, and alternating snowshoes, microspikes and perhaps crampons as well for your boots.

In town, chunks of ice and snow fall off roofs, and many home and building owners put up signs to warn people walking below. Homeowners find out whether their gutters and drip edges work, and put their engineering skills to work diverting water.

Worst of all, ice jams can flood towns as rivers’ hard tops break up.

That’s just reality we have to deal with. Spring is worth it, both the short-term warmth and the inevitable transition to summer.

We are at a similar turning point with the pandemic. The vaccines so far seem to be extremely effective. Many people already have their shots, and the production and delivery of new vaccine doses has ramped way up. COVID-19 cases and deaths are declining. Federal agencies now say fully vaccinated people can gather together indoors again, and that nursing home residents can receive hugs again, although masks are still recommended. Many colleges are announcing fully in-person classes in the fall.

It almost seems too good to be true sometimes.

It isn’t. We’ve all been through a lot, and we deserve this. But as with spring, it comes with warnings and work.

The coronavirus is running out of new hosts as it encounters people’s immune systems boosted by the vaccines and with so many people having already been infected. But the coming of spring, this shift is gradual, not sudden. If we stop wearing masks, washing hands and social distancing, we give the virus — and its new mutant strains — easy access to whole new markets of hosts. We will not eliminate it entirely, but if we hold out a while longer, we can starve it down to the level of the flu.

The thaw is underway, but there’s still a lot of snow and ice on the ground to deal with. We’ll take each season as it comes. Summer is inevitable.

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