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We are not out of the COVID-19 woods yet

People everywhere are more than ready to get back to “normal,” and with COVID-19 cases on the decline, it seems that may be possible sometime soon.

We’re not there yet.

Certainly, we have received encouraging news: coronavirus cases and deaths are declining throughout our region and across much of the nation. Governors and health departments are loosening or even lifting restrictions. Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, for example, eliminated the curfew that had been in place for months.

It’s also becoming easier to get vaccinated against the illness, and the CDC says fully vaccinated individuals can gather without masks. Both Ohio and West Virginia have declared residents as young as 50 to be eligible for the shots. And signing up for the vaccine is becoming easier, too, as both states have taken their registration systems online.

These are good signs, but we aren’t out of the woods yet and shouldn’t act as though all is well.

Even as the number of COVID-related illnesses and deaths are on the decline here in the United States, a new surge is underway in Europe. Following six weeks of steady declines, the caseload across the continent went up 9 percent last week. This is due largely to the presence of more contagious variants of the virus. At least three variants have been identified, and all seem to be more easily spread than the original virus. Variants also have been found in the U.S.

So, we must remain vigilant in our efforts to stop the spread of the disease. Although we might like to, it is not time to put away our face masks just yet.

Instead, we should all heed the advice of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

¯ People age 2 and older should wear masks in public.

¯ Stay at least 6 feet away from other people, especially when indoors and with people who are not members of your own household.

¯ Wash your hands and use hand sanitizer frequently.

Continue these and other precautions to protect yourself and everyone around you.

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