Josh Bergeron: Even a little more cooperation helps

Published 12:00 am Sunday, December 5, 2021

It’s hard to ignore the “here we go again” feeling as another worrisome COVID-19 variant emerges.

Just identified two weeks ago, health officials in our area and elsewhere are raising flags that the omicron variant could be more contagious than previous ones. Its severity compared to previous variants remains unknown. It’s also not clear whether it can evade vaccines. Because people have gotten COVID-19 a second time previously, it’s reasonable to assume people will be reinfected with the omicron variant, too.

There are plenty of steps the public can take to fight the virus — masks, social distancing, avoiding large indoor groups and vaccines. Dr. David Priest of Novant Health encourages people to be vaccinated or receive a booster instead of waiting for vaccines to be adjusted in the same manner as the yearly flu shot. Priest and the Rowan County Health Department say vaccines remain the public’s best shot to fight the virus.

Another important step: employees should stay home if they’re sick and managers need to make it possible for their workers to do so. The situation will only be worse if an entire shift or group of employees is too sick to work.

With the exception of face masks, this variant is unlikely to bring the same kinds of business closures, shutdowns or mandates as 2020 and early 2021. Even people previously supportive of such measures will say they’ve done their part to stop the pandemic and shouldn’t be punished for the actions of others. If Gov. Roy Cooper didn’t re-implement restrictions for the delta variant spike, when thousands of North Carolinians died in a few months, it would take a truly extraordinary set of circumstances for him to do it this time.

Salisbury and Rowan County should heed advice from health officials regardless of mandates because we’ve seen the kind of devastation COVID-19 can bring. It was one of the leading causes of death in 2020. Because deaths this year are greater than last, it could repeat as one of the leading causes of death in 2021.

Behind each of the county’s 479 deaths is a person and a family. For people whose lives weren’t taken from them, the virus changed things forever. A multi-faceted pandemic, lives changed even for people who didn’t test positive, including layoffs, furloughs, mental health and substance abuse issues.

If the community and the country are going to make it through another wave of the pandemic without fracturing further apart, solidarity in mitigation measures will be important. While the fit and healthy may fine, it’s a fact the most vulnerable groups — the already sick and frail — will carry the burden of damage caused by the virus.

Vaccines are important for more than individual health because some people cannot medically receive them. Masks are important in crowded places because the virus poses a bigger risk to some of our friends and neighbors than others.

People will make their own choices, as they’ve done since the start of the pandemic. But it’s exhausting to see people constantly fight with one another about the virus. It takes all of us to change that — a task that starts with resolving to mitigate the effects of the pandemic instead of favoring fatalism, working to understand each other’s differences and caring about the value of a human life.

After such a divisive couple of years, there shouldn’t be any illusion it’s easier to work together. The task is much larger than the Post, Salisbury or Rowan County. But outcomes will be better with even a modicum more cooperation.

Josh Bergeron is editor of the Salisbury Post.