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Safety, patience key as area, state, nation are at critical pandemic juncture

COVID-19 deaths and cases have been surging throughout the nation this month. And small communities in the Upper Peninsula are no exception.

For example, Luce-Mackinac-Alger-Schoolcraft Health Department reported on Wednesday that in Alger County, there has been an 80% increase in new cases from Jan. 6 through Tuesday compared with the previous two-week period.

Officials said these cases are tied to gatherings without masks, a lack of distancing, and some who have broken isolation or quarantine guidelines.

We are well aware of the “quarantine fatigue” many people are experiencing at this point. It’s been challenging to comply with all the changes and guidelines that came so quickly and have lasted so long.

However, with vaccines being administered and a more infectious variant circulating in Michigan, this is hardly the time to stop these measures, as LMAS officials noted.

“While much attention and hope has turned to the beginning rollout of the vaccine for COVID-19, it is important that we not lose sight that the coronavirus is still in our communities and continues to spread,” officials said. “LMAS District Health Department calls on all of our residents and visitors in Luce, Mackinac, Alger and Schoolcraft counties to not give up on the necessary protocols to protect each other, including the proper wearing of masks, staying home when you don’t feel well and not gathering with those not in your immediate household.”

Furthermore, a sobering statistic highlights the urgency of following public health protocols and getting a vaccine: more than 400,000 people in the United States have died from COVID-19.

To further bring the magnitude of this loss into perspective, the current total of American COVID-19 deaths now surpasses the number of Americans killed in World War II. The average daily death rate reported for some weeks this month was over 3,300, exceeding the number of Americans killed in the Sept. 11 attacks, the New York Times reported.

But each and every one of the 400,000-plus people who have died from COVID-19 had a name, a face, a life, a story, a family. As of early December, more than half of Americans — 54% — said they knew someone who had been hospitalized or died from COVID-19, a Pew Research Center survey reported.

And with all the loss and heartbreak that have filled our daily lives for many months, it’s clear that much work remains to be done — by individuals, as well as leaders at local, state and federal levels — to combat this pandemic.

So we urge you, please do anything and everything in your power to fight this virus and save lives. There are many things you can do: wear a mask, practice social distancing, wash your hands, get a vaccine if you’re able, encourage others to engage in safe practices and get a vaccine, and reach out to your local, state and federal leaders if you have questions, concerns or input related to the pandemic.

And please, don’t give up. You could save a life.

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