Editorial: This time, COVID-19 poses bigger threat to community

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 12, 2021

Rowan County is in a worse place as students return to school than one year ago.

As school started in mid-August 2020, daily COVID-19 cases were anywhere from the teens to high 30s. The total number of cases was about 2,400. One year later, daily increases are regularly in the 70s. There have been about 1,000 cases in the county in just the previous two weeks.

Major events were canceled at this time last year. Now, the community is proceeding with plans for events that would normally draw thousands of spectators. Concerns are lower with outdoor sports, but it doesn’t help that high school football could bring thousands of people together at once. Gathering restrictions are gone. There’s no mask requirement, and people are more divided than ever about a pandemic that still poses a major threat to the life and health of the community.

It’s not just that COVID-19 will continue to claim more lives. It will put local residents in the hospital, potentially creating lifelong health conditions. When there are outbreaks at businesses, operations may shut down for extended periods of time because people must stay home to recuperate.

That nearly half of the eligible population in Rowan County is fully vaccinated and an additional group has tested positive will help. It will not be a panacea for those who have no antibodies at all — of which there are still tens of thousands in the community. North Carolina health officials estimate about 7,297 of the state’s 1.09 million cases are “breakthrough cases” — people who have been vaccinated and have later tested positive. The virus also is still mutating into new variants and we’re still dealing with a virus about which medical professionals and scientists are regularly learning new information.

A solution is to embrace the three Ws again — wash hands regularly, wait 6 feet apart and wear a mask — in addition to being vaccinated.

Most discouraging, however, is that entities with the responsibility to enact rules aimed to stop the spread have shirked them amid the current spike. Gov. Roy Cooper acknowledges the current spike is dangerous but hasn’t taken action to re-enact rules used to combat the pandemic previously. The city of Salisbury is asking the public to wear masks in its buildings, but local governments otherwise haven’t taken steps to enact restrictions.

Led by Travis Allen and Dean Hunter, the Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education was clear that it wanted students and parents to have the freedom to choose whether to wear masks or be vaccinated. While schools do not appear to be major spreaders of COVID-19, they are microcosms of the community and can model behavior for students and families.

While crowds of people are advocating for liberty, we shouldn’t forget about the unalienable rights to life and the pursuit of happiness. Without collective action, we’re endangering the latter two.