Remember the solar eclipse glasses?

As Aug. 21, 2017 drew near, glasses required for safely viewing a rare total eclipse, which passed directly over Sylva, were the hottest item out there. For a time, it seemed there would be a severe shortage, but the law of supply and demand kicked in and when the historic day arrived, there were plenty to be had. Really, almost a glut.

Wouldn’t it be nice if COVID-19 vaccines took the same route? Scarcity, then an overabundance?

Initially, the question was whether a vaccine could be achieved. We credit the previous administration for Operation Warp Speed, which smoothed the way for the development of the tools to battle coronavirus in record time.

As to distribution plans, not so much. The initial rollout was chaotic, but states and local health departments, including Jackson County’s, now seem to be catching up.

Jackson County Deputy Health Director Melissa McKnight told the Herald this week that the department will receive 1,200 doses for the week of Feb. 7-13, up from the original projection of 200 doses for the next two weeks.

Appointments have been made for all 1,200 doses.

The vaccination operation here appears to be running smoothly. McKnight said, “We continue to vaccinate those in our community as quickly as our supply allows. Our throughput at our drive thru clinics is 100-125 vehicles per hour. We feel like we could vaccinate about 800 people per day at this site.”

After one of the slower starts in the country, North Carolina is catching up rapidly. According to the Carolina Journal, more than 9 percent of residents had received the first round of COVID vaccines by Monday. And after a period where vaccinations seemed to be sitting on the shelves, the state has launched its own version of Warp Speed, with 99 percent of doses received by the federal government as of Jan. 27 administered, moving the state from 40th in first doses administered to 12th in just a week.

After a year of living with a pandemic, there’s a fair amount of good news out there. But there’s a perplexing mix of bad news mixed in with it; confusion about obtaining vaccination shots, news of variants that may defy vaccinations, all overlaid with concerns that society may be opening up too quickly with spring around the corner and a year of fatigue under our belts.

Patience should remain a watchword. We’re still learning a lot about COVID-19 and its treatments, and there remains much to be learned.

Can those who’ve been vaccinated ease up and change their behaviors?

Can schools safely reopen without all teachers being vaccinated?

How do the current vaccines deal with variations from Brazil, the U.K. and South Africa? Will completely new vaccines be needed?

The answers to many of these questions is that we simply don’t know. But again, we’re learning.

Along with patience, we need to maintain vigilance.

“While you wait on your turn to be vaccinated, make sure you take steps to protect yourself and others from COVID-19 – wear a mask, stay at least 6 feet from others, avoid crowds, avoid poorly ventilated areas and wash your hands often,” McKnight said. “Now is not the time to let up.”

We hope that the time can soon arrive where we can indeed let up, when we can again look forward with unbridled optimism and anticipation and gather freely under the sun.

Or the lack of the sun – the next Great North American Solar Eclipse is April 8, 2024. This one won’t pass directly over Sylva, but will be a few hundred miles west.

Hopefully by then vaccines will be as available as sliced bread. You might want to start looking for eclipse glasses early, though.