We’re not out of the woods yet.

It has been the worst week for Cullman County and the state of Alabama in terms of the number of COVID-19 cases reported. We’re all excited to have the economy reopening, to get out and about, but that does not mean we should be throwing caution to the wind.

The virus - unseen, highly contagious and deadly - is still with us. When Gov. Kay Ivey announced the most recent reopenings, she emphasized that we all must take personal responsibility in slowing the spread of the disease.

“It takes all of us being vigilant and adhering to the social distancing guidelines to stop the spread of this disease,” she said.

Maybe everyone was cheering the reopening news too loudly to hear that part. Because if the most recent numbers - 46 new infections in Cullman County in the past 14 days - are anything to go by, we’ve not been responsible.

Cullman is a generous place. It’s a place where neighbor looks after neighbor and when a need is expressed, its people step up to meet the need.

Right now, what’s needed is for people to go about their lives in a manner that protects the people most vulnerable to this disease.

That means washing your hands frequently, maintaining at least six feet of space between unrelated groups of people and, when that’s not possible, wearing a mask.

For the most part, it’s fairly easy in Cullman County to maintain social distance. We’re blessed with ample open space. There are times and circumstances, however, where it’s not so easy.

Dr. Rachel Lee, an infectious disease doctor at UAB, noted in a briefing this week that many people with the virus don’t show symptoms for several days.

‘If you are asymptotic and potentially spreading it, that mask, coupled with hand hygiene and distancing, will be enough to protect others from potentially getting exposed,” she said.

She and State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris had a similar message: assume you are the danger and take precautions to protect your family, friends and community.

Masks, for whatever reason, have become politically charged. But this virus does not care about party politics; it’s an equal opportunity infector.

And we understand that even without the political take, masks aren’t anyone’s first fashion choice. They can be hot, uncomfortable and annoying. But isn’t it worth the alternative?

On Friday, Cullman Regional bid a cheerful goodbye to Mr. Rolando Marquez. He was hospitalized for 52 days because of COVID-19 and has been moved to another facility to continue his recovery. We congratulate Mr. Marquez and the staff at the hospital for his recovery, and wish him a speedy return to full health.

That is great news; and Cullman has been fortunate to not have any deaths from this disease. But if you knew there were some simple steps you could take that would prevent someone else undergoing a lengthy hospital stay, wouldn't you want to take those steps?

The reality is that this virus is still with us. It’s likely going to be with us for a while, and, as Dr. Lee noted, there is still much we don't know about this virus. But in the meantime, we need to learn to live with it in a way that limits its devastation.

More than 600 Alabamians have died because of this virus and a half a million have lost jobs. Hopefully, with businesses reopening, many of the jobless will be able to go back to work. It’s going to have to be different than it was before, however, or we risk lives and livelihoods all over again.

Governor Ivey noted, “If we start going in the wrong direction, then we reserve the right to come back in and begin to reverse course.”

Cullman County is a generous community. It’s time once again to show that generosity through caring enough for our fellow citizens that we take the extra steps necessary to keep them safe. As Dr. Harris said this week, “If you won’t do it for yourself, please do it for your family and your community.”

Put on your superhero mask.

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