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County’s coronavirus uptick is cause for concern

The recent uptick in new COVID-19 cases in Carter County and Northeast Tennessee is cause for concern.
Over the last seven days, the average positive percentage for COVID-19 in Carter County is 18.6 putting it in the Red Zone. Over that period there have been 203 new cases reported, and over a 14-day period, there have been 394 cases, which gives public health officials significant cause for concern.
This is the time to double down on our efforts. The virus is everywhere we go, and it affects everyone — our schools, churches, nursing homes, health care workers, and local businesses. The oft-repeated coronavirus saying, “We’re in this together,” applies to the counties of this region. The importance of wearing masks and social distancing, of testing and tracing cannot be overemphasized.
While most businesses have signs posted on their door asking those who enter to wear a mask, there are still too many people in too many places who do not wear a mask.
Wearing a mask is not a violation of civil liberties — any more than the “no shoes, no shirt, no service” sign on the door of a convenience store or restaurant.
It is not a political statement — though plenty of people want to make it one.
It is not a guarantee that you won’t get the coronavirus … but studies, real-world evidence and even some wacky home experiments show that masks can protect you and others from the coronavirus, even in high-risk situations. For all the early focus on cleaning doorknobs and disinfecting groceries, we now know that the virus is spread most efficiently through the tiny droplets we emit when we talk, laugh, sing, sneeze or cough. Now that testing is ramped up, the tests are finding that people can be infectious before they show symptoms — and some people never show symptoms. If a person is sick and doesn’t know it, a simple face covering can catch most of those droplets and prevent other people from inhaling them.
So why isn’t everyone just wearing a mask? Some people don’t want to be told what to do. Or they feel invincible. Or maybe they just don’t care that much about other people. Others cling to the advice public health officials gave early in the pandemic, when they downplayed mask use outside of healthcare settings. At the time, there was a worldwide shortage of personal protective equipment for health professionals. Some epidemiologists think we should have been wearing homemade cloth masks from the start. The CDC’s official advice on masks changed as it learned more about the virus. Even President Donald Trump reluctantly came around on masks, calling them “patriotic.”
Masks are a pain, but masks work.
Look, we all want to get back to doing the things we love to do. Wearing masks will help us get there. It will get us back to the place where we can watch a basketball game in person, our kids can get back in school, our nursing home residents can see their family and friends again, Sunday School will be a regular service again at church, the choir can sing, and we can have family gatherings again. According to one simulation, if 80 percent of people wore masks, that would do more to reduce the spread of COVID-19 than another lockdown.
In Carter County, in addition to those who have been hospitalized and have suffered through the virus, 37 people have died. Some we knew, others we didn’t. But, they were precious to someone.
The success of beating this virus and keeping down positivity rates depends on individuals’ commitment to wear masks and social distance. Following the rules will push down positivity rates for the entire region, allowing more businesses and schools to safely reopen.
It may sound trite, but the saying is true: We are all in this together.