COVID-19 cases are on the rise across the nation, including in Alabama and Cullman County. When Gov. Kay Ivey first issued the mask order, people for the most part did their part and the number of new cases per day and hospitalizations started a steady decline. But now people are tired of taking precautions and those numbers are increasing again.

Health care workers, community and business leaders are warning that we’ve got to avoid “Covid fatigue” if we want to continue sending our children to school, keep businesses running and keep ourselves and our neighbor’s healthy. We also need to rethink large gatherings and holding people accountable when attending community events.

Everyone - everyone - wants things to go back the way they were before the novel coronavirus infected our nation. However, that’s not reality and we have to deal with how things are, not how we want them to be. The good news is that as we’ve learned more about this new virus, treatment of it has gotten better and we’ve learned more about how to prevent the spread. It’s not enough to have that knowledge, though, we’ve got to apply it.

For example, you can go to the grocery store, go to work, go on about your lives, but do so with physical distancing, hand washing, wearing masks and staying home when you don’t feel well. Unfortunately, too many people are tired of wearing masks, tired of maintaining distance and want to revert back to “normal.”

The result is more community spread of the virus and increased hospitalizations. This week, Cullman Regional reported 30 positive patients, two of whom are on ventilators. These are our neighbors, friends and coworkers. We lift up prayers for them and their families. Let’s lift up our masks, too.

Beginning Monday, students in Cullman County high schools and most middle schools will be switching to a hybrid schedule to give them more distance within the schools and, hopefully, cut down on the spread of the virus. The problem, though, is not what’s happening in the schools. It’s what’s happening in our community that is then being brought into the schools.

At ball games, the county fair, Oktoberfest and social gatherings - all these events we looked forward to and were happy to have back in our lives - people have attended in large part as if the virus never existed. And Cullman County’s risk factor went from green “low risk” to red “very high risk.” If you look at the Alabama Department of Public Health Risk Assessment Map, Marshall County is the only neighboring county at this risk level.

Proof that the risk is real exists. In the last two weeks, more than 500 people have tested positive for the disease in Cullman County. We went from seven COVID-19 patients at CRMC on Oct. 7, to 30 as of Friday.

That’s not to say we shouldn’t enjoy community events again. Risk can be reduced without completely eliminating activities. But organizers need to require attendees to follow the state health orders. Relying on people to take “personal responsibility” is clearly not working.

We can’t afford to have another shut down and we shouldn’t have to go to such extremes, especially since we know what works to curb the spread of this disease. We don’t know how long this situation will last, but we do know that the people of Cullman will endure and they will care for each other. Now is not the time to give up on preventing the spread of this virus; now we must double-down on our efforts.

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