In news that none of us here in Melbourne want to perceive, Australia’s daily case record has just been smashed by Victoria. With a deeply grim 1,736 new cases clocked on Tuesday, the southern state has surpassed the NSW’s record numbers, which peaked at 1,599 cases on September 11. Though this is all really bloody bleak to think about, it’s not what me or any of my friends are concentrating on. We’re now squarely focused on vaccination rates and hitting percentage targets.

This isn’t to say that Victoria holding the Australian record for most cases in one day isn’t upsetting – it is. It feels like shit, and we’ve all pried open that little trauma box that holds all the feelings from 2020’s mammoth 111-day lockdown and its (at the time) pretty alarming case numbers.

To quote Tame Impala, it really does feel like we’re only going backwards, baby.

One thing to note however, is that the number of deaths are still quite low relative to new infections, and the biggest thing that’s keeping that mortality rate low is people getting the jab. I don’t know about your group chats (or mates in Victoria) but it feels like we’re attaching less hope to low case numbers, and focusing more on the vaccination rates as they inch incrementally every day.

In the state’s daily presser on Tuesday, Premier Dan Andrews said that of the 517 people currently being treated for COVID in hospital, 66% of them are unvaccinated and a mere 6% are fully vaxxed.

While there is a slim chance of breakthrough infections after getting both jabs, the proof is in the pudding: vaccines largely stop us from winding up in a hospital bed, and ease the immense pressure put on our healthcare system.

“Again, the numbers tell the clearest of stories,” Dan said.

“If you are vaccinated, your likelihood of being gravely ill, your likelihood of finishing up in hospital, is massively reduced. You will – there’s no certainties – but you will do everything you possibly can to avoid that, and your chances of finishing up in hospital are but a fraction of those who are not vaccinated.”

Hell, I’m even getting more excited to see the weekly vax rate update in my local Brunswick Neighbourhood Facebook group than I am the daily digits from the health department. Focusing in on the vaccination rates makes me much more aware of what areas are dragging their feet in getting the jab done, and drills those state-wide targets down to a community level.

I can tell you that my council area (hello, Moreland) is currently at 75.2% first dose, which is a 4.3% increase since last week. It also places my neighbourhood as 75th out of 79 LGAs, in terms of vax rates. We’re at the back of the pack, and that is what worries me more than how many cases are popping up each day.

Interestingly, the City of Melbourne is tracking the lowest at 68.3% first dose, but it’s reported that’s likely because the population data hasn’t updated to reflect the exodus of international students, who typically reside right in the city.

So while the daily case numbers (and now holding the country’s COVID case record) are a still a bit of a gut punch, at least the increasing vaccination rates are softening that blow, and we (hopefully) aren’t all spiralling in the world’s most locked-down city. Right?

Image: Getty Images / Quinn Rooney