We are now eight months into the novel coronavirus pandemic and, for better or worse, adjusting our lives around the virus. There is good and bad to be found in that.
From mid-March to today, we have pivoted our work and our recreation, our families and our faith. Most of us have adapted to wearing masks at appropriate times, even though none of us like it. And we have learned to put our trust in limited social circles that allow us to maintain some form of interpersonal relationships.
For the most part, we are carrying on our lives — not as if nothing ever happened but in spite of all that has happened. And so that’s good.
But then there’s the bad. Political and ideological polarization has turned into physical distance. Snap judgment is running high. And rather than focusing on what binds us together culturally, we dwell on what separates us — and we spend hours on computer keyboards clacking away at each other. Ugh.
For Better ...
We have spent considerable time in this space these last eight months taking to task the Moore County Department of Health for a fumbling, ineffective and, at times, contradictory response to the virus.
It took several months to get on track and for its leadership to find purchase, but local health officials appear finally to be on solid ground. They have developed and disseminated a coherent message around “the Three W’s” of wearing a mask, waiting 6 feet back and washing hands.
Communication to the public is vastly improved. Information is now timely and, in some cases, proactive. We know much more about where the virus is hitting, who is most vulnerable and how to protect ourselves. Free COVID testing opportunities for the public are available at least weekly, and sometimes more frequently than that.
Our schools are also working. Private schools, which don’t publicly report cases or how they’re handling safety, appear to be functioning at five days a week. Public schools, which have had 110 total cases since August, also appear to have found a suitable rhythm for students and staff, even though in-person attendance is still just two days a week.
For the most part, people are heeding the advice of health officials. Walk into most any business and you see most people wearing masks. Masks primarily prevent the spread of the virus, and transmission rates are lowest in areas of highest mask compliance. It’s undisputed.
A look at Moore County’s data proves it out. Several weeks ago, we were averaging almost 25 new cases a day. Now, we are half that, and the percentage of positive tests is below 5 percent, after stubbornly being above 10 percent. We are on the right track.
... And Worse
Trouble remains, however. Our nursing homes remain vulnerable. Look no further than Peak Resources Pinelake in Carthage, where 15 residents have now died from the virus, and 119 infections have been recorded.
The corporate management that oversees that facility has yet to utter the first word to Moore County about this. It’s offered no information about what it’s doing. No one has even offered a public apology or condolence.
More needs to be done to protect those in our long-term care facilities. That was one of the Health Department’s first stated priorities eight months ago. Our community has a higher percentage of elderly than most in North Carolina. Senior citizens remain a particularly vulnerable population to COVID. Compliance of the Three W’s will go a long way toward helping keep down the virus’ spread to them.
But the arguing goes on over these mitigation measures, their effectiveness and whether we ought to just return to “normal” and let the virus run its course. That might be the worst thing ongoing.
There’s still too much of “I’m right, you’re wrong.” We don’t need to wait for a vaccine to eradicate that; simple courtesy, dignity and respect will do just fine.