Opinion/Our View: COVID-19 still demands our caution, prudence

A Jackson-Hinds Comprehensive Health Center nurse administers a Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at an inoculation station next to Jackson State University in Jackson, Miss., Tuesday, July 19, 2022. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

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A Jackson-Hinds Comprehensive Health Center nurse administers a Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at an inoculation station next to Jackson State University in Jackson, Miss., Tuesday, July 19, 2022. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

THE EDITORIAL BOARD’S VIEW

COVID-19 continues to be the unwelcome guest in our midst.

More than two years into the global pandemic, we’ve adapted, persevered, struggled with and largely learned to live alongside an invisible virus that has proven frighteningly tenacious in its ability to change, survive – and spread.

We’ve been frustrated by it all, and that’s understandable, given the shifting public health guidance and the sometimes-conflicting counsel among experts.

Then there’s the at-times appalling misinformation that, like the coronavirus itself, has survived repeated attempts to force it into submission.

So, two years-plus into this public health crisis, here we are trying to live life as normally as we possibly can.

This, while COVID-19 remains on the march, driven by a succession of virus variants that have shown the ability to both spread more easily and more readily evade the protections provided by vaccines. Even so, we should not overlook that COVID vaccines continue to offer a strong shield against severe illness, hospitalization and death.

A front-page story in Wednesday’s The Atlanta Journal-Constitution was elegant in its succinct summation of where we are now: Here we go again.

The pattern is now exhaustingly familiar: a surge of cases, and all that entails, followed by an easing-off of infections, hospitalizations and deaths.

The see-saw cycle then repeats.

And we’re weary of it all. With good reason.

Yet, our health and our shared humanity demand that we remain vigilant and cautious. This, even as the number of COVID-19 deaths and hospitalizations remain thankfully below the awful peaks seen a year or more ago.

We should not overlook that COVID-19 continues to sicken many. Healthcare workers continue to feel the strain of full ER’s and hospital beds.

And, although the virus appears to be less deadly now, it still kills.

It’s a frustrating time, what with so many breakthrough infections among those who thought vaccinations and boosters could fully wall them off from this disease. We’ve learned that’s not 100% possible.

Even so, COVID-19 vaccination has been shown to greatly reduce the likelihood of illness serious enough to require hospitalization, which is a place we could only dream of during the worst, early days of this deadly pandemic.

So, our longstanding call for Georgians to get fully vaccinated still makes sense. It’s the best thing we can each do to try and safeguard ourselves and others around us. Call it Southern hospitality in a medicine vial if you must, but if you haven’t yet done so, please take the vaccine.

With only about 57% of Georgians fully vaccinated, we have a long ways to go toward doing all we can as residents of this state to help keep each other safe, given that the vaccination rate has essentially stalled, reflecting lessened demand driven by skepticism, apathy, misinformation and other reasons.

Meanwhile, COVID stubbornly remains around us.

In the most recent seven-day period ended last Wednesday, the Georgia Department of Public Health reported 101 new confirmed deaths from coronavirus infection. This folds into the total of nearly 39,000 probable and confirmed COVID-19 dead here so far.

Wednesday’s news story reported that this latest surge is behaving differently: “rising slowly but inexorably with no plateau in sight since it began in mid-April.” A Grady Memorial Hospital physician interviewed said, “I hope this is not the new normal.”

We should each do all we can to help ensure that doesn’t become the case.

Behaving prudently in public settings is part of that too.

Widespread, at-times controversial, mask mandates are mostly behind us. Even though masking became unduly political, that doesn’t preclude more of us from voluntarily doing what public health experts say is still the right thing -- wearing well-fitting, quality masks when out and about, especially when in crowds or indoors. Doing so can help prevent further spread of coronavirus infection.

None of these commonsense public health precautions seem overly burdensome, considering where are now.

Not when 86 of 159 Georgia counties are reporting high levels of COVID-19. And not when 1,306 people were hospitalized with coronavirus infection on Tuesday, up from 1,200 little more than a week ago.

We can still each do our part to help curb the spread of COVID-19.

And we should.

Doing so will benefit Georgia’s people, families and economy.

The Editorial Board