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AS WE SEE IT: To mask, or not to mask…

You may see our editor out and about in the community without a mask on. This doesn’t mean the pandemic is over. Our editor and publisher have both fully vaccinated. Even with those vaccinations, however, they continued to wear their masks for quite some time. It was only after the governor began lifting mask mandates and recommendations that we stopped wearing our masks in public.

We didn’t continue wearing masks out of any sort of fear. Or, at least, not out of any sort of fear for ourselves. We trusted the science behind the vaccines. 

What we did worry about was picking up the virus and possibly spreading it to others who hadn’t been vaccinated yet. While the virus might not make us sick because of our vaccinations – we trusted the science behind that – we weren’t 100 percent sure at first if that meant we could still spread it if exposed. 

We decided to err on the side of caution, and even though we’d all been vaccinated we continued to wear our masks. We felt it was better to be safe, as the saying goes, than to be sorry.

Now, the science is showing what some worried about when mask mandates were first being lifted – that we may have been too quick to embrace a return to mask-free indoor gatherings. 

In recent weeks COVID-19 cases have spiked across the state, and in Carter County. 

As July started Carter County was in the yellow zone for COVID cases and Kentucky’s map, as a whole, was mostly yellow with a smattering of green and even fewer orange spots. Two weeks later Carter, and neighboring Boyd and Greenup Counties, were all in the orange. Nearby Lewis County is in the red. The map, overall, has gone from mostly yellow and green to mostly orange and yellow, with far fewer green and far more red spots. 

According to data released by the Carter County Health Department the county’s total number of cases has now grown to at least 2,423 infected individuals. Of those 2,343 have been released, 45 were currently isolating at their residence, one was hospitalized, and there were at least 34 positive COVID cases associated with deaths. 

Two of those new cases were added on Sunday, and four on Saturday. Three new cases were reported last Friday. Five new cases were added to the list last Thursday. Eight new cases were added as we were places papers on the rack last Wednesday, as the county briefly spiked back into the red zone before settling back down to their current orange rating. New cases have been added daily over the last two weeks, with as many as 14 in one day at the height of the most recent viral rebound. 

This new surge is attributed in part to the Delta variant of the virus – a new strain that has made its way to the United States and now Kentucky – and it isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. 

We’re not asking for a return to a full shut-down and quarantine like we did when the virus first struck. That time is past, the genie cannot be put back into the bottle, and it’s time to learn to live with the virus. 

But the operative term here is “live.” We want all of our readers, and their loved ones, to stay alive. 

If you haven’t gotten a vaccine yet, and you can, we urge you to do so. Don’t fall victim to pseudoscience, misinformation, and propaganda. Talk with a trusted physician about any concerns you have about the vaccine and determine with them which vaccine option is best for you. 

If you still have trepidation about the vaccine and concerns your doctor cannot allay, or cannot take the vaccine because of a compromised immune system or other issues, do the next best thing and wear a mask in public to protect yourself and others. Once again, don’t fall prey to pseudoscience and misinformation. Ask your trusted doctor about the perceived risks of wearing a mask, and listen to their advice. 

Even if you’re fully vaccinated, if you have to be in a crowded indoor situation you might consider masking up. While the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are both reported to offer protection from the Delta variant and other mutations of the virus, the Delta variant is reported to be especially aggressive. If we can help curb its spread with selective masking, we should do so. 

Doing the right thing now, and wearing a mask in those situations, may save us from having to return to a full lock down and quarantine. 

More importantly, it may save a loved one or a neighbor’s life. And that’s invaluable. 

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