Editorial: Don’t make things worse in next phase

Published 12:01 am Sunday, May 10, 2020

Make no mistake, COVID-19 remains a major health concern locally, but reasonable people can argue that things have stabilized somewhat.

There are reasons to be optimistic about what’s to come. Because of the number of recoveries increasing in the previous week, there are roughly the same number of active cases (total positives with recoveries and deaths subtracted) as there were a week ago. And we know that data is relatively current because rapid tests are now available in Rowan County. No more waiting two weeks for positive results.

There haven’t been any officially reported COVID-19 deaths in Rowan County since the beginning of May.

Don’t mess this up Rowan County.

The community and the state at large are in a moment when things can spike or the relative stabilization can continue. Failing to adhere to public health recommendations could wind up creating a spike and resulting in a more stringent shutdown that of which Gov. Roy Cooper is working to ease. It’s not unreasonable to imagine triple-digit, daily spikes in places like Rowan County and four-digit, single-day increases in larger population places if the so-called Phase 1 is treated like a cue to return to life before the virus.

Unfortunately, there are already trends that could be the seeds of a growth in cases in a week or two. Congregate living facilities once represented the majority of positive cases in Rowan County. They still represent almost all of the deaths.

But community spread outside of nursing homes is the most significant source of recent COVID-19 positives now, according to county officials. Between a quarter and a third of cases outside of congregate living facilities have occurred in the previous seven days. And those are just the symptomatic cases. People are still largely discouraged from being tested unless they are showing symptoms because of a still-pervasive lack of tests. The virus is spreading silently among those who are asymptomatic.

By the time someone starts showing symptoms it may be too late to prevent the onset of a serious case of the virus.

To be clear, the burden falls on the public for following health recommendations like avoiding large gatherings, washing hands frequently, staying 6 feet from people when out in public, avoiding touching your face and wearing masks in cases where social distancing is difficult to impossible.

Any steps businesses take — having one-way aisles, putting up plexiglass at registers and signs up about social distancing as well as having separate entrances and exits —  require the public to pay attention and abide by them to minimize COVID-19’s spread.

We know much more about COVID-19 than when it first made its appearance in the county, but scientists and health professionals continue to learn new things and it’s still not entirely clear how widely it has spread because of the lack of testing.

So let’s make this new stage of the governor’s stay-at-home order one where Rowan County gets back to work and supports local businesses all while listening to the best advice from health professionals. Otherwise, things could get worse for both the economy, which has already reached Great Depression levels, and public health before they get better.