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COVID-19 still a risk to health

COVID-19 still a risk to health

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Will the worst of the pandemic be over relatively soon? The announcement this week that Pfizer is developing a vaccine that is 90% effective gives us hope that the pandemic’s days are numbered. However, testing still must be done, and if the vaccine safely does what Pfizer claims it will do, we still are months away from wide distribution. As that process unfolds, more and more people will become immunized and that will make life safer for more and more people.

Yes, there are many encouraging developments, and it’s natural to feel hopeful after so many months of restrictions and precautions.

However, if humanity truly is within striking distance of ending the coronavirus pandemic, then how we conduct the end game is of grave importance. Let’s not squander this opportunity by becoming overconfident and reckless. Instead, let’s proceed cautiously. Let’s see that those most in need of the vaccine — medical professionals, first responders, the elderly, etc. — are first in line to be vaccinated. While people performing essential roles are vaccinated, the rest of us must wait patiently. We will need to allow intelligence to guide our actions, and that means keeping up our guard against the virus.

Earlier this week we in the Kearney area heard a desperate plea from our hospital executives that their staffs are approaching the breaking point. In a presentation to the Kearney City Council they called for the public’s assistance to slow the rapid increase in COVID-19 cases. It was a plea that touched on many of the same points that medical professionals have stressed in the past, but on this go-round, they said they need more nurses and space is becoming an issue.

Unless the public assists the medical community, case numbers will rise along with hospitalizations and fatalities.

How can we help? Think of the four W’s:

- Wear a mask. They help prevent the wearer from spreading COVID-infected droplets if they cough or sneeze.

- Watch your distance. Droplets can float in the air for hours. Don’t risk exposure by getting too close to others.

- Wipe surfaces. The virus can survive for hours on countertops, auto interiors, door knobs, etc. Disinfect those surfaces.

- Wash your hands. You kill the virus when you wash your hands with warm soapy water for 20 seconds.

Robert Messbarger, the physician who heads the Kearney Board of Health, advised people to be careful about expanding their social circle beyond a handful of family members and friends. Thanksgiving gatherings that bring people together from far and wide are risky. So are church services when few people wear masks.

We salute Kearney businesses that request or require customers to wear masks. Gestures like those may be unpopular among some customers, but they increase safety for all shoppers and the staff members at the store.

The end of the pandemic may be in sight, but let’s not let down our guard.

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