It feels like a dozen years ago, not two, that we were urged to stay home for two weeks to stop the spread of COVID through our communities. We all now how well that worked.

Then we could feel the tide turning in the summer and fall of 2020, before a second, post-Thanksgiving surge forced the state to reopen field hospitals and dramatically increase the number of COVID-19 testing sites.

We felt hope in the spring of 2021 when vaccines dramatically reduced the transmissibility and deadliness of the virus. Once the world started opening again, however, the omicron variant coursed its way through the crowd. It feels like we’re back to square one as we enter 2022.

The year will bring its own challenges. People are worn down and on edge as we enter the third year of the pandemic. While the omicron variant is less deadly than its predecessors, it is much more virulent, putting a strain on understaffed hospitals. Businesses are worried whether they can survive another up-and-down year. While Massachusetts has much better vaccination rates than much of the rest of the country, there are still far too many people who haven’t gotten the shot, letting the virus linger and giving it time to mutate.

If we are going to avoid another year stuck in our living rooms, we must know do a much better job tracking both the virus and vaccination efforts.

There is, however, a recent spate of good — or at least hopeful — news that points toward the opportunity to have Massachusetts, if not the rest of the country, see something closer to a “normal” life by the end of the year.

First came the announcement earlier this week that the state has procured 26 million rapid antigen tests for the next three months, with plans to deploy them in schools and childcare settings. While it has taken too long to get the initiative underway — witness the confusion and chaos of the first few days of school after the holiday vacation — focusing on testing in school and daycare settings is a wise.

The first priority, of course, is to keep children protected from the virus and its most recent strain. But it should also help keep teachers safe, schools open and students at their desks. A third year of interrupted learning would be devastating.

“I think the most important thing we need to do with these tests and with other tools is make it possible for people to continue to be in school,” Gov. Charlie Baker said Tuesday.

Having schools and daycares open also benefits parents, who can resume a more regular work schedule (even from home), and businesses who will have a workforce that isn’t constantly called home to deal with classroom outbreaks.

The state also unveiled a new proof-of-vaccination website that should make life easier for small businesses, especially those bars, restaurants and other gathering places that are requiring patrons to be fully boosted to enter.

The tool can be located at MyVaxRecords.Mass.Gov. It lets people create the digital card that includes information similar to that on the paper card given to individuals at the time of their vaccination.

In announcing the move, Baker said it wasn’t meant to pave the way for a statewide vaccine mandate.

“It is your information downloaded onto your phone if you choose to do so,“ Baker said. “I think it’s a far more customer-friendly and effective way to make this tool available to people who want to use it.”

The so-called passport, however, will likely make more people willing to go to restaurants, bars and other entertainment venues. Who wouldn’t rather be in a room with people you know have been vaccinated, rather than take a chance?

Better that than see a return of more restrictions at the beginning of 2023.

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