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Wear a mask now, get July 4 fun next year

Well, here we are.  It’s Fourth of July weekend, and people want to think about fun in the sun and how great America is.

And, sure, it would be ideal if Monongalia County Health Department thought the best use of this space would be how to grill safely or making sure pools are suitable for swimming or keeping hydrated during this hot weather.

Ah, the good old days. Although that’s all still good advice.

But as COVID-19 cases rise, in Monongalia County as well as in West Virginia and about 28 other states, it’s (past) time to start taking this virus seriously.

And now the United States apparently isn’t even on the list of countries whose citizens can travel to Europe as that continent begins to open up its borders.

We’re great, but unfortunately, right now, things aren’t so good.

Added to the mix are community spread COVID-19 cases among individuals who visited bars or gyms in the past 11 days. 

As of Thursday, Monongalia County was up 41 cases since June 22. It’s been one of the busier times for the health department’s disease investigators and contact tracers since West Virginia started seeing its first diagnosed positive cases in March.

So how can we turn this around? Monongalia County Health Department has been driving home key points on the best ways to remain safe during a pandemic: Wear a mask in public, maintain a social distance from others of six feet, and wash your hands often and thoroughly.

Some listen, others do not. As we’ve stated before, maybe they’re done with COVID-19, even though COVID-19 clearly isn’t done with us.

But if everyone wants to have fireworks and football with full stadiums and big, in-person parties with their friends anytime soon, it’s going to require buckling down now.

Scientists overwhelmingly state that wearing masks helps prevent the spread of COVID-19. States that mandate mask usage — and countries in which citizens consistently wear them — are faring much better than those in which facial coverings are spotty. COVID-19 cases are decreasing in the former and increasing in the latter.

Plus, I’m no scientist, but it seems pretty obvious to figure out: Wearing a mask, especially coupled with social distancing, will go a long way toward keeping people’s respiratory droplets away from each other. 

I recently saw a photo of one of those fights between a baseball coach and an umpire. You know the kind, where they are up in each other’s faces, mouths wide open, screaming at each other. I know it was taken before the pandemic, but now it seems like a horrifying scenario.

If we consider ourselves patriotic, wearing a mask seems like a small sacrifice — especially compared to the ones made by those who fought in the American Revolution — to keep others safe.

As we’ve noted before, individuals have spread the virus when they have COVID-19 without any symptoms, or during the infectious period before the onset of symptoms. Just because you feel fine doesn’t mean you can’t pass the virus along to co-workers, friends, family and, yes, even strangers. If you want to emulate a historical figure, it shouldn’t be Typhoid Mary.

Here is some advice when it comes to mask wearing, social distancing and other precautions: Pretend like you and everybody else has COVID-19 and act accordingly. Wear a mask in public places. Stay six feet away from others. Wash your hands thoroughly and often. When planning activities, consider the risk involved and maybe make other plans. You’ll be much more likely to eventually get to whatever it is you want to do if you don’t catch a virus that could kill you.

If everyone pitches in, we can get back on track. And then hopefully next year, we can have a Fourth of July holiday with all the trimmings: Fireworks, parades, hot dogs and, of course, standing close together to one another.

Contact Mary Wade Burnside at 304-598-5152 or at