EDITORIAL: Now is not time to let down our guard

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 22, 2022

The COVID-19 numbers are in for Lawrence County in January and they are pretty horrifying.

In the first 18 days of the month, the county has seen 2,176 new cases of the virus and, in the last two weeks, 11 deaths.

And the trend is the same statewide, with Ohio hitting a record number of daily cases on Thursday.

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With the spread of the virus worse than it has ever been, the public should be more vigilant than ever in following safety guidelines.

But, whether it is due to fatigue from the pandemic, now closing on its two-year mark, or high amounts of misinformation (or purposeful disinformation) circulating on social media or from irresponsible parties, this is not the case.

We’ve heard, and seen for ourselves, many reports of large stores in the area where the vast majority of the customers are going unmasked. Meanwhile, across the river in West Virginia, the Legislature there seems to be doing the opposite of what it should, with its House Education Committee pandering to political extremists and passing a bill forbidding local school districts from requiring masks for students and staff.

In the early days of the pandemic, Dr. Amy Acton, then director of the Ohio Department of Health, predicted that we could end up in a situation where the state saw 6,000-8,000 new cases of the virus per day.

Opponents of health measures taken by the state mocked her when cases dropped, claiming such a surge never took place. And this was used to bolster their calls to strip the department of health and the governor of much of its power to fight the virus.

But the numbers now are far worse than Acton predicted. Ohio reported more than 21,000 new cases of the virus on Thursday, its highest number since the pandemic began.

While Acton may have been wrong on a timeline, she did foresee how severe things could eventually get.

Which is why the public should try to get back into the mentality of vigilance.

While it is politically impossible and not economically feasible for the state to shut down again, there are still measures that can help to curb the spread.

• Masks. It’s still a simple measure that goes a long way. If you’re out in a crowd, wear a facial covering. It’s a small gesture and a minor inconvenience, but it makes a major difference.

• Strict hygiene. Continue to use hand sanitizers and wash hands regularly, especially if using you come into contact with a highly-used surface like a door handle.

• Vaccinations. The vaccine is widely available, free and, contrary to fearmongering conspiracy proponents, safe. These can be obtained from the local health department or through many pharmacies. While breakthrough cases are possible, the figures show that deaths and hospitalizations are far lower in those who are vaccinated.

• Avoid crowded gatherings. If you can stay out of a crowd, do so. And this is especially true at this time of year when most things take place indoors. And we encourage local governments, churches and organizations to bring back the practice of virtual meetings, or utilize larger meeting areas where attendees can safely social distance, rather than cram the public into a crowded space when it is not necessary.

These are all small things, but common sense, and if we all follow them, the tough weeks we are experiencing could ease much sooner.