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It’s turning out that whoever joked that it’s always darkest just before things get even worse wasn’t joking.

The coronavirus pandemic not only isn’t going away, it’s getting worse in states that took aggressive steps to stifle it as well as those that didn’t.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker put more distasteful icing on the cake this past week when he acknowledged that progress can be “fleeting” and that “right now, things are not headed in the right direction.”

The uncertainty generated by the pandemic is reflected in the various plans for public school openings later this month as well as the Illinois High School Association’s unprecedented restrictions on sports for the 2020-21 school year.

IHSA board members reluctantly announced scheduling changes that will require “playing all sports over the course of truncated fall, winter, spring and summer seasons.”

“As a result, several team sports will shift to new seasons, including football, boys’ soccer and girls’ volleyball moving from the fall to the spring. ... IHSA boys’ and girls’ golf, girls’ tennis, cross country, and girls’ swimming and diving will remain as fall sports, and can proceed to start on Aug. 10 as scheduled,” the IHSA board announced.

But even the fall sports that are allowed to continue will begin with, per Pritzker guidelines, “competition limited to conference opponents and other schools in the same general geographical area.”

It’s impossible to make everyone happy, but the pandemic makes clear that it is certainly possible to make everyone unhappy.

Misery may, generally speaking, love company. But in this case, misery is just making everyone miserable.

And for how long? Things may get better, as Pritzker hopes they will, but could get worse as well. No one can say, with confidence and credibility, what lies ahead.

Meanwhile, the numbers of infections and deaths just keep rising.

As of Thursday, Illinois had 176,363 infections, a rate of 1,391 per 100,000 population. Deaths were at 7,564, a rate of 60.4 per 100,000.

Compare No. 5-in-population Illinois to No. 1 California. The latter has had 484,913 infections, a rate of 1,227 per 100,000, and 8,908 deaths, a rate of 22 per 100,000.

Now compare those numbers to New Jersey, whose population of 8.8 million makes it No. 11 among the states. It has had 180,600 infections, a rate of 2,033 per 100,000, and 15,798 deaths, a rate of 178.2 per 100,000.

With less population, New Jersey has had more infections than Illinois and a death rate three times that of Illinois and six times that of California.

From all appearances, the governor of New Jersey has zealously supported efforts to limit the virus’s spread, just as Pritzker has here. So what’s the problem in getting the desired results?

There’s plenty of speculation — and finger-pointing — surrounding that issue, but no solid answers. If there were, circumstances would not be where they are.

For now and the immediate future, there’s no alternative to exercising caution, as best it can be determined. Unfortunately, the pandemic represents a marathon, not a sprint.