Masks July 2

Masks are an inexpensive and effective tool in the fight against COVID-19. A man wears a mask while walking along the first block of North Queen Street in Lancaster city Thursday, July 2, 2020.

THE ISSUE

As LNP | LancasterOnline reported Wednesday, “New numbers show increasing cause for concern for fall as rates of new COVID-19 cases have trended upward locally and statewide. ... (On Tuesday) Pennsylvania’s 14-day rate of new cases was the highest it’s been since mid-May, according to data from the state Department of Health. Lancaster County’s rate was at its highest point since mid-August. Hospitalizations, too, have recently increased, though they remain far below spring levels.” Pennsylvania recorded 24,172 new cases in September, up from 21,977 in August. Lancaster County logged 1,262 new cases, up from 1,206 in August and 1,083 in July.

Here was the significant piece of good news in that LNP | LancasterOnline story about rising virus cases here: “While new cases and hospitalizations have increased, the rate of deaths has not yet shown signs of an uptick.”

We are deeply grateful for that fact, and hope it continues to hold true.

Health care providers and epidemiologists have learned a great deal about COVID-19 since the pandemic began. While there are still no surefire antiviral drugs, and vaccines remain in development, doctors, nurses, physician assistants and respiratory therapists have a better handle on how to treat a person with COVID-19.

But their knowledge continues to evolve.

And COVID-19 remains a lethal and capricious disease that takes the lives of hundreds of Americans a day, and spares others; leaves some relatively unscathed and others with long-term health effects that medical experts are only beginning to quantify and understand.

We are heartened by the news out of the White House from President Donald Trump’s physician that the president is feeling better and no longer experiencing symptoms. We pray this remains the case.

But the president — rightly — received intensive, world-class, all-hands-on-deck medical care. He received an experimental antibody cocktail not available to most COVID-19 patients. And he has 24/7 medical care at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., as well as a helicopter that could return him at a moment’s notice to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

All of this is to say: Please be careful.

Please continue to take all the measures recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Wash hands regularly. Watch for COVID-19 symptoms and stay home if you feel ill.

Practice social distancing, staying at least 6 feet away from people from outside your household.

And please — please — wear face masks when you’re in public (remember that this is mandatory in Pennsylvania).

We know everyone is tired of the pandemic. We’re tired of it, too. But, as LNP | LancasterOnline’s report Wednesday shows, the novel coronavirus shows no signs of wearing itself out.

So, as we said, please continue to be careful. Mask up when you go out, and make sure your mask covers your nose as well as mouth.

And please get a flu shot, as soon as possible, to keep health care providers from needing to deal with influenza-sickened patients, as well as COVID-19 patients in the coming months.

We’d also ask this: Please remember that COVID-19 doesn’t end well for everyone. We point this out not to make people fearful, but because it’s simply the truth.

While the death rate here has not increased in recent weeks, the reality is that, according to county Coroner Dr. Stephen Diamantoni, there have been 429 COVID-19 deaths in Lancaster County. And, according to the state Department of Health, there have been 8,272 deaths across the commonwealth.

More than 211,000 people in the United States have died of COVID-19, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.

That number is so staggering that it can be hard to grasp. As we’ve noted before, Penn State’s Beaver Stadium has an official seating capacity of 106,572.

Picture two stadiums of that size, side by side. That’s roughly how many Americans have been lost to COVID-19.

To try to measure the rippling grief and heartbreak wrought by those deaths would be impossible.

But just because we can’t understand that much sorrow doesn’t mean we should dismiss it.

Every person, every family, who lost someone to COVID-19 is wrestling with grief. We ought to acknowledge, in some way — preferably as a nation — their grief.

One such effort took place Sunday, when 20,000 empty chairs — each chair representing 10 lives lost to COVID-19 — were set up on the Ellipse outside of the White House for what participants called the first National COVID-19 Remembrance. The event was organized by a group called COVID Survivors for Change.

Chris Kocher, founder of the group, told CNN: “We are living through this collective national trauma.”

And “compounding people’s grief,” he said, “is the lack of acknowledgment, lack of recognition.”

Sunday’s event may have passed without your notice. That’s understandable — life is busy. We’d like to see another remembrance event, this one marked in cities and towns across the country.

In the meantime, we can honor those who have been lost to COVID-19 by refusing to diminish their loss.

And by refusing to diminish the dangers of COVID-19.

“Don’t be afraid of Covid. Don’t let it dominate your life,” the president tweeted Monday, angering survivors still struggling with the disease’s effects and people still mourning the loss of loved ones to the disease.

COVID-19 has taken the lives of highly trained athletes as well as people who hadn’t exercised much at all. It has taken the lives of CEOs and grocery store employees. It has taken the lives of health care providers, office workers, custodians and teachers. It has taken the lives of many elderly Americans, but of younger Americans, too. No one is immune to its danger.

But we can protect ourselves and our loved ones by adhering to the basics of COVID-19 prevention. Taking COVID-19 seriously — heeding the science — reduces the chances of the disease bringing unnecessary levels of sorrow and death in the coming months.

As Dr. Tom Frieden, an infectious disease physician and former director of the CDC, tweeted Wednesday: “We disregard science at our peril. Mother Nature bats last, and she bats a thousand.”

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