Vigilance in battle against COVID-19 still critical

If you’ve ever wanted to be a masked superhero, the time has come!

Most of us, of course, have been donning our facial coverings faithfully since April. It was a strange and somewhat annoying measure to adopt initially. But we collectively overcame comfort concerns or hang-ups over our freedom being muffled to bring the state’s COVID-19 positivity rate low enough for a partial reopening of many businesses and to entertain the potential of a return to in-person schooling this fall.

The operative word for just about everything related to restoring normal behaviors is “potential.” As coronavirus outbreaks continue across much of the nation, the notion that Illinois had its peak and is safe and sound on the descending side is, at best, naive, and at worst, dangerous.

Chicago is asking people arriving from states where cases are surging to self-quarantine for 14 days, as many of those states revert to more restrictive guidelines in an attempt to slow the spread.

And a recent spate of cases reported in the western suburbs should be a sobering reminder that the virus is indeed still circulating here, and everyone is a potential carrier. The fact that many of recent spikes seem to among a younger demographic than before is not surprising. They are more likely to gather in large groups and, because they have generally not been regarded as a high-risk subset of the population, could be inclined to relax their preventative vigilance.

And vigilance is a trait we’ll need for some time to come if we choose to trust health experts like Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“I do think the fall and the winter of 2020 is probably going to be one of the most difficult times that we’ve experienced in American public health,” Redfield declared this week, citing the challenge of fighting COVID-19 and the seasonal flu simultaneously.

But that’s not all he said.

“I think if we could get everybody to wear a mask right now, I really do think over the next four, six, eight weeks we could bring this epidemic under control,” he counseled.

As a local paper, we’re not in the habit of weighing in on national policy. Ultimately, each one of us is responsible for making our own choices in response to the circumstances we face. But while the choices are personal, the potential ripple effects of those choices at this time are far-reaching.

Our health care professionals and essential workers deserve our thanks — and our dilligence. Let’s continue to protect them by staying in this ongoing fight. Wear masks. Wash your hands. Keep at least six feet away from others when in public.

We’ve come this far. Let’s not give up those gains by losing sight of where we started.