Like the twinkle of a Christmas light on a cold winter night, Pfizer’s announcement that a large clinical trial of its COVID-19 vaccine had shown it to be safe and effective offers a bit of light amid the darkness.

But the vaccine is far from a panacea and there is a long way to go before it will be widely available — probably by April according to Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health.

Meanwhile, Pennsylvania and the nation continue to set daily records for new cases. The death rate is not nearly as high as it was early in the crisis because the disease is now more prevalent among younger, generally healthier populations and medical professionals have devised some effective treatments.

The accelerating contagion raises new concerns about its economic and social costs, especially since it is certain to cover the Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons.

Economically, many small local companies already hang by the narrowest of margins because of the body blow they received from the early phase of the pandemic and continuing restrictions, such as vastly diminished indoor dining, occupancy limits, social distancing requirements, and so on.

For local businesses to survive amid the continuing crisis, especially with Congress whiffing so far on a new round of pandemic relief, it’s crucial that local shoppers keep them in mind as the holiday shopping season swings into high gear.

There are many ways to support local business, including in-person where possible, through the purchase of restaurant gift cards to online.

The holidays are a season of hope in the spiritual sense, for individuals and communities. This year, the pandemic poses an opportunity to generate hope in a direct, practical way, by supporting local economic recovery through supporting local businesses.

— The Citizens’ Voice, Wilkes-Barre (TNS)

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