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Kenosha News editorial: Let's keep our guard up in COVID-19 fight
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Kenosha News editorial: Let's keep our guard up in COVID-19 fight

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“Are we there, yet?”

That’s a backseat query we haven’t heard in more than a year as we’ve curtailed our travels, family visits and outings to sports events and other destinations. All because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

More Americans are getting vaccinated against COVID-19 every day, as the rate of new cases in the U.S. hits a plateau. But Dr. Anthony Fauci says that plateau is "disturbingly high." And he says the U.S. is at risk for a new surge, as there hasn't been a continued decline in case numbers amid the spread of highly contagious variants. 

"The way we're looking at it now, it's almost a race between getting people vaccinating and this surge that seems to want to increase," Dr. Fauci said. The U.S. has now had more than 31 million cases and more than 560,000 deaths. And now experts say the variants are to blame for a rise in new cases in the Northeast and in the Midwest, like in Michigan.

A variant outbreak there has overwhelmed its public health system, and the state is approaching its pandemic high of daily cases - set back in November. Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is urging increased vaccinations - and seeking additional vaccine supplies - to calm the surge."This is why it's some important that the nation surges some vaccines here," Whitmer said. "This is why it's so important that we continue to move forward in getting the population vaccinated and getting people masked up."

Elsewhere, Georgia is the third state to temporarily shut down a vaccine site after eight people there reported adverse reactions to Johnson & Johnson's shot. Meanwhile, other states - including California - are expected to see their supplies of the J & J vaccine plummet due to production problems.

Other nations are experiencing vaccine shortages, too. Some 60 countries, including many poor nations, are experiencing vast delivery delays after a major factory in India suspended exports. The World Health Organization is blasting a "shocking imbalance" in global vaccination rates.

This comes as the CDC and global agencies are encouraging massive vaccination campaigns to curtail the pandemic."These trends are pointed to two clear truths, said CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky. "One, the virus still has hold on us, infecting people and putting them in harm's way and we need to remain vigilant, and two we need to continue to accelerate our vaccination efforts and to take the individual responsibility to get vaccinated when we can."

But when that question is applied to COVID, itself, the answer is, “No, not yet. But soon. It’s just around the next bend.”

Now is not the time to let up; we need to keep our foot on the gas and our eyes on the road. That means continuing to push ahead with COVID vaccinations, maintaining social distancing and masking up when necessary to protect ourselves and others.

After losing more than 556,000 Americans to death at the hands of the pandemic, we’re all well aware of the awful cost COVID has inflicted on friends and family — and on others across the world; it would be a massive mistake to let our guard down now, just when victory over the virus is in sight.

Yes, there are many bright spots in recent reports on the effectiveness of the COVID vaccines. The number of COVID deaths in the U.S. plunged by nearly 20 percent in the first week of April. For the most part that success is due to the fast ramping up of vaccination rates that are now going into the arms of Americans at the rate of 3 million people per day.

Here in Wisconsin 1.1 million state residents have been fully vaccinated with two doses and that represents 20 percent of our population. Additionally, the number of state residents who have received their first vaccination which gives substantial protection now stands at 30 percent. Likewise, the national figure on partial vaccinations stands at 33 percent with more than 109 million Americans having received at least one dose of the vaccine.

The drop in deaths and the rise in vaccinations are both reasons to cheer.

Gradually we’ve seen restaurants and bars opening to higher capacities and sports venues as well. Tailgating is coming back at Am-Fam Field for Brewers games and travel is on the uptick. We’ll gladly welcome the day when we can put our masks in a drawer to sit as a reminder of a perilous 2020.

That day hasn’t yet come. There are new spikes in Europe in COVID cases and here in the U.S. the number of coronavirus cases a day has risen by 21 percent over the past couple of weeks. The number of daily hospitalizations in the U.S. have also gone up by about 2.7 percent from week to week.

Younger people in their 30s and 40s are showing up in those statistics — in part because America gave vaccination priority to older Americans who were more likely to die. And new variants of COVID look to be more aggressive in their ability to spread.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, warned last week that the U.S. is at risk from a new surge and said, “It’s almost a race between getting people vaccination and this surge that seems to want to increase.”

“Hang in there a bit longer,” Fauci said. “Now is not the time, as I’ve said so many times, to declare victory prematurely.”

By moving ahead with vaccinations, continuing to take precautions and masking up when necessary, we will get there. By the start of summer, we may well be able to have a victory party.

We’re not there yet. Keep your guard up.

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