Hopefully, we are turning the corner on COVID

Published 2:21 pm Tuesday, March 8, 2022

The latest COVID-19 news in Carter County and Tennessee is good.
The latest report from the Tennessee Department of Health (last Wednesday) says that only 133 cases were reported in Carter County during the seven-day period ending Feb. 26 with a daily case rate of 33.7 percent. (We regret that Tennessee sometime ago quit publishing COVID data on a daily basis. Now, it is only weekly and five days old when it is published. We believe the Tennessee Department of Health can and should do better.)
Overall, during the two-year period that COVID has raged, according to state data, Carter County has had 16,302 reported cases of COVID with 311 deaths.
For COVID-weary Tennesseans, the news is good that COVID may be on its way out the door.
Local mask mandates, imposed when cases peaked, have served their purpose and are ending. The CDC is telling Americans that, in many cases, they don’t need to wear masks. And hospitals generally are no longer at imminent risk of being overwhelmed. Now, they are catching up on care delayed during the pandemic.
Most nursing homes are now open to visitors, and in many cases, activities for residents have resumed. We cannot imagine the lockdown periods these nursing home residents endured, when they could not have visitors or go out for even a haircut.
The cautious among us will properly note that we’ve seen the slack in COVID before. Last summer, restrictions were eased after cases went down and many were vaccinated. But then COVID came roaring back, albeit in a form that didn’t inflict as much damage, at least on the vaccinated population.
So it’s wise to recognize that this pandemic might not be entirely behind us. But given the recent plummet in cases, let’s take a moment to be happy about the latest positive turn — and maybe make some resolutions for our future.
First of all, let’s be grateful for the medical professionals — nurses, doctors and more — who have helped us through this two-year ordeal and continue to care for us. Imagine how rough this experience would have been if those dedicated health care workers hadn’t spent such long hours on the job, month after month, risking exposure themselves.
Similarly, we shouldn’t forget the people who kept the economy and essential services going, despite the lack of vaccines in the first part of the pandemic. At a time when some people worried about even going into a grocery store with a mask, there were lots of workers who drove and unloaded trucks, stocked the shelves, ran checkout lines, or prepared grocery orders for pickup or delivery. And, remember those early days of the pandemic, when there was a rush on toilet paper, sanitizer, and the like?
While we’re thanking people for challenging jobs, we should add the teachers who had to invent new ways on the fly to offer instruction online. And later, when everyone returned to school, those teachers needed to oversee mask wearing, social distancing and making up for the learning losses from disrupted schooling.
The bottom line is that lots of people — your neighbors, your co-workers, your local businesses and you — all have had to adapt and persevere through some pretty unique and difficult situations over the past few years. Some lost jobs and income. COVID disrupted lives and kept people apart. It canceled activities. Many workers and employers had to figure out how to work remotely. Some people got very sick, and some died.
Even funeral homes had to adapt. In many cases, it was only graveside services for families who had lost loved ones. No funerals or funeral home visitation. Slowly, funerals are returning.
And we’ve all had the pandemic hanging over us, month after month, year after year. Even those who thought the danger was overrated still had to deal with the economic and lifestyle changes that pervaded our lives. It has lasted way too long. And when COVID itself became a partisan football, too many of our everyday interactions and social media posts and tweets devolved into anger and snark.
It’s time to turn the page.
It’s time to stop being mad at each other over masks. Some have seen them as a horrible imposition, others have put up with them, but certainly few of us liked them.
Now, in the growing number of situations where masks are not required, either by government or businesses, we can stop shaming those who choose not to wear one. Where they are still required, we can just wear one without a fuss. And there’s certainly no excuse for berating people who still think it wise to wear a mask, as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis did the other day with some students.
It’s time to find more ways to support local businesses and restaurants. This has been a brutal two years for many of them. The ones who have survived often have had to adapt, such as serving only take-out meals.
Now people are much freer to patronize those businesses in person. Let’s do that. Unlike the big national online retailers, those places are part of our community. They hire our neighbors, pay local taxes, reinvest in our city and state. They have a stake in our prosperity, and we have a stake in theirs.
And when we go to a local restaurant or business during the current labor shortage, let’s remember the good manners, patience and kindness that our parents and kindergarten teachers taught us. Of course, many people have never forgotten those lessons. Too often, however, we hear reports of harsh behavior and impatience directed at overworked staff.
We can do better. And now, as conditions ease, we have an opportunity for a new start.
Let’s emerge from this pandemic by rededicating ourselves to our character as Carter Countians — big-hearted, optimistic, caring, helpful, and determined.
Let’s give each other a little more grace, a little more understanding.
We’ve all been through a terrible, frustrating struggle. With the darkest days of the pandemic apparently behind us, let’s move forward together, but still be careful.

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