The COVID-19 pandemic has now been with us nearly a year, having started in one winter and now stretching into the next. In that time, we’ve learned more and more about the virus, but still don’t have all the answers.

What we do know is that our region is involved in a spike of the disease, as we see more hospitalizations and deaths. The alarm has been sounded by health officials and others.

Now we are in a waiting period to see if recently-enacted mandates have the intended effect or if the long, dark winter about which so many officials warned has just begun.

At the same time during which we’ve seen an alarming growth in the number of COVID-19 cases, we’re also hearing promising news — that vaccines designed to fight against the spread of the virus are not just on the way, but imminent.

This vaccine will be limited at first, as the drug manufacturers increase production and as targeted, vulnerable communities and first responders become the first protected against he virus.

But, later, more and more of the public will become vaccinated and we can gradually return to a semblance of normalcy.

However, we have a number of months before we get there, and, as a consequence, we will have to continue to navigate in a number of ways far removed from what we once recognized as normal.

Part of the problem that we’ve faced in recent months is the pain we’ve felt from government-enforced mandates on businesses and other organizations that will have far-reaching impacts beyond the pandemic. Whether they’re ultimately proven to be useful or even effective remains to be seen.

But, what we can do to not only prevent the spread of the disease, the deaths, but also of harmful COVID-19 shutdown effects, is to take personal responsibility.

The steps, according to experts such as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, couldn’t be easier — cut down on social contacts, wear a mask when in public and wash your hands adequately and regularly.

Nobody really wants to take on some of these steps, but they’re necessary currently. And, honestly, while uncomfortable and often not fun, they’re relatively painless.

There’s so much we’ve yet to learn about COVID-19. We know it can be particularly deadly to some, but don’t yet have the answers as to who or why some are subjected to not just severe, but deadly, symptoms, while others don’t even get the sniffles.

It’s a matter of not just protecting yourself, but taking responsibility for the betterment of the health outcomes of the community.

There are many who want to act like they have all the answers on this. And those are often some of the most dangerous people around.

But, instead of insisting on being right, how about we take the time to insist on doing the right thing. It’s likely that even if you may not be subjected to the worst COVID has to offer, your getting the virus could result in someone else who may die from it contracting COVID-19.

It’s a simple matter of caring for our neighbors and our community. It’s a simple matter of taking the responsibility to work for a better future for all. It’s time to step up and do the right things, for today, and for tomorrow.

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