Crisis hits home

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With or without mandate, masking up is right thing to do

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  • Kurt Johnson
    Kurt Johnson
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A global pandemic that has disrupted lives and livelihoods in 2020 is nearing crisis levels right here at home.
By now, chances are that you, someone in your family, someone you work with or consider a close friend has tested positive for COVID-19. That’s a startling development in recent weeks that is making this global health scare very real, and very personal, much more so than hearing about the latest global and US case totals 24/7.
The number of cases here in Hamilton County has risen dramatically in the past few weeks, almost doubling in the last month alone. It’s been well documented that the Central District Health Department risk dial was at 3.8 last week, near the very top of the red zone, and trending higher still. We need that number, and level of alarm, to go down, sooner than later. 
Nebraskans have by and large applauded Gov. Pete Ricketts for NOT implementing a mask mandate, as have we. Last week he was more direct, however, urging all Nebraskans to reduce their mobility and contact with others, confirming that this pandemic is getting worse all across the state. Ricketts is choosing his words carefully, but it’s crystal clear that he is alarmed by the recent spike, as he should be.
We don’t need a city, county or statewide mandate to know that it’s time to take our self-defense measures to a higher level, doing everything we possibly can to stop the spread. We don’t hesitate to do that for our own families, and it’s clear that our community now needs that same level of commitment.
All four local schools have adopted strict mask policies, some involving spirited board level debate. At the end of the day, school officials agreed that the best and safest place for kids right now is in school, and if requiring everyone involved to wear a mask in the classroom and at school functions increases the ability to keep them there, then the end justifies the means.
We could not agree more!
Leaders of our local schools haven’t been 100 percent successful, but there’s not been a serious outbreak. Schools are succeeding by clearly communicating expectations and enforcing them. We’re at that point now in our community as well. If we want our businesses, churches and public facilities to remain open, we’ve got to be more consistent in our safety measures.
COVID fatigue is just as real as the virus itself. We’re all sick and tired of hearing about it, dealing with it and changing our routines because of it. But, the reality is it’s not going away without the help of a vaccine, which is at best weeks or months away.
What we can do now is abide by the governor’s recommendations, keeping a distance, avoiding large gatherings and, yes, wearing a mask when we go out in public. It’s the right thing to do to protect our children, our neighbors and perhaps most importantly, our most vulnerable residents.
Kurt Johnson

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