Football season is upon us, and legally or not, a lot of folks will be placing bets on games in coming days as collegiate squads and the NFL begin gearing up.

Thus, let us talk about gambling and the odds.

The Powerball lottery offers odds of winning of about 1 in 292 million.

The odds of getting hit by lightning in your lifetime is about 1 in 300,000.

And the odds, if you’re an American, of being attacked by a shark is 1 in 5 million.

We’ll stick with the shark theme for a moment because it follows that to be attacked by a shark, you have to be where there are sharks. Not going to happen at, say, Pinnacle Park.

The shark of our times is COVID. It is not restricted to the ocean. Indeed, it surrounds us like an ocean.

Let’s talk about the odds.

NC-COVID.org has put together a lot of useful data and maps. Some of the maps are broken down by localities and give the odds you will contact someone currently infected with COVID-19. In Sylva, if you attend a 10-person gathering, the odds you’ll come in contact with an active COVID case is 10 percent. For a gathering of 25 people, the odds go up to 22 percent.

If you decide to pop over to Cherokee for a 25-person gathering, your odds rise to 42 percent.

Note that these numbers are calculated for residents only. A visitor from one of the states that have been COVID petri dishes this summer would presumably kick the odds higher.

Happily, if you attend a 10-person gathering in Sylva and everyone 12 and over is at least partially vaccinated, your odds drop to 0.09 percent.

Problem is, even after months of the availability of free, convenient vaccinations, just under half of Jacksonians 12 and over are at least partially vaccinated.

The odds aren’t getting better as the Delta variant rages. In North Carolina, the number of deaths from COVID stands at around 14,500. Before long, the total number of people vaccinated should hit 5 million. That’s better, but not good enough.

It means the gains so many of us fought for, the things we looked forward to like school openings, restaurant outings, family gatherings and football weekends, are very much in peril.

It’s a broken record, but to protect those things, vaccinations and masks are the only proven path forward.

Anything else is a gamble. With your life.

And the lives of others.