Mask Oct 23 2020

Three-year-old Allie Kat Smith, left, walks with her parents Samantha, left, and Matt on the first block of North Queen Street in Lancaster city on Friday, Oct 23, 2020. We need to mask up and take other precautions to limit COVID-19's spread. 

THE ISSUE

COVID-19 cases continue to surge across the United States. Pennsylvania’s case total has surpassed the 200,000 mark; the commonwealth had seen 202,876 total cases as of Thursday afternoon, and 8,762 deaths, according to the state Department of Health. Lancaster County had seen 9,647 COVID-19 cases and, according to county Coroner Dr. Stephen Diamantoni, 442 deaths. The U.S. had seen more than 228,600 deaths and more than 8.9 million COVID-19 cases as of Thursday evening, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.

Four days away from the election, we know it’s hard for people to remain calm. It’s hard for us, too.

But please, let’s all try.

And, if we can, can we please tighten our grip on common sense?

When Pennsylvania Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine said sensibly Monday that “as we approach the holidays, we need to rethink those gatherings,” some people took umbrage.

Lancaster County Commissioner Josh Parsons tweeted this: “NO. WE WILL NOT CANCEL THANKSGIVING OR CHRISTMAS IN LANCASTER COUNTY.”

We think someone needs to reread the classic Dr. Seuss book “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!”

Christmas can’t be stolen. Or canceled. As the Whos in Whoville taught the Grinch, “Christmas Day is in our grasp, so long as we have hands to clasp.”

Rethinking Christmas doesn’t mean canceling it. No matter what, Christmas comes to those who believe in it.

Likewise Thanksgiving.

It may need to be held outside perhaps, with family members donning coats, masks and hats, and keeping safe social distances. Or on Zoom. Or in smaller numbers than in the past. But no one, and nothing — not even a lethal pandemic — can keep us from giving thanks for this great nation of ours, and for the blessings that have been bestowed on us.

This evening, many Lancaster County children will trick-or-treat. We hope their parents find a way to do so safely — walking with just their own kids rather than groups of other parents and kids — and collecting individually packaged candy, given from a safe social distance.

Or maybe they’ll celebrate the holiday at home, watching scary movies and getting sugared up on candy corn and caramel apples.

The most important thing right now is for people to be safe, so we don’t have to face the holidays in 2021 with loved ones missing at our dining tables because of COVID-19. We know from experience how difficult holidays can be when we’re grieving, and we truly don’t want that heartache for you and your families.

And we don’t want it for the medical workers who will need to care for those hospitalized with COVID-19 in the days and weeks to come.

We were deeply dismayed by President Donald Trump’s assertion earlier this week that doctors have an “incentive” to classify patients’ deaths as caused by COVID-19 because the “doctors get more money and hospitals get more money.”

In a statement, the American College of Emergency Physicians said it was “appalled” by the “reckless and false assertions that physicians are overcounting deaths related to COVID-19. Emergency physicians and other health care workers have risked their lives day in and day out for almost a year battling the greatest public health crisis in a generation — all while watching countless patients die alone, going to work without sufficient protection equipment, and struggling with crushing anxiety about getting sick or spreading the virus to their loved ones.”

“To imply that emergency physicians would inflate the number of deaths from this pandemic to gain financially is offensive, especially as many are actually under unprecedented financial strain as they continue to bear the brunt of COVID-19. These baseless claims not only do a disservice to our health care heroes but promulgate the dangerous wave of misinformation which continues to hinder our nation’s efforts to get the pandemic under control and allow our nation to return to normalcy.”

The American Medical Association pointed out that research published in its journal, and by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, indicates that the U.S. has had “significantly more deaths in 2020 than in previous years.”

Physicians, that association said, “are not inflating the number of COVID-19 patients.”

Please, let’s support doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists and other medical workers as they treat the increasing numbers of COVID-19 patients here and across the United States.

Let’s plan to celebrate our holidays safely so those medical workers can share their holidays with the loved ones with whom they live.

And let’s meet the challenge of the coming days with common sense and compassion — and as much calm as we can muster.