We all have a personal responsibility to slow the spread of COVID-19. It is imperative that we protect each other by doing the things that have been proven to work. They are wearing masks, practicing social distancing, good hygiene and getting vaccinated.
We all want to return to a strong economy and normal day-to day activities! However, as we watch the news reports we see that one minute cases are going down, and the next minute the spread is rampant.
We pat ourselves on the back thinking we have done a good job wearing our mask and social distancing. The next moment we relax, take off our mask to have lunch with a friend, and forget to put it back on until much later, taking the chance of exposing ourselves and our family, friends, co-workers and others we come in contact with, to COVID.
Statistics as of Monday, April 26 reported that Lycoming County remains at a very high risk level of exposure with an average of 37 cases per day, about the same as the average two weeks before. Since the beginning of the pandemic, at least 1 in 10 Lycoming County residents have been infected, a total of 11,195 reported cases. Several of our neighboring counties, Columbia, Union, Clinton, and Potter have recently moved up into the extremely high risk level for exposure again.
I am old enough to remember going with my family to get the polio vaccine in the early 1960’s. Polio was devastating. Once gotten, it is incurable. I watched one of my favorite Sunday school teachers struggle with polio. Thankfully that vaccine has eradicated the disease in most places.
We are not sure what the long term physical effects of this pandemic will be, but the crisis of grieving following COVID-19 is very much upon us. Many grieve the loss of loved ones, and many more are now impaired with its physical or psychological effects.
We are all grieving the more abstract losses too – the loss of familiar routines, of schooling and carefree childhoods, of socialization, of breathing safely in public and of embracing loved ones and reaching out to comfort or encourage a friend.
In the midst of all these changes what does one do?
If you are now fully vaccinated, your guidelines have been loosened. You might start by inviting a friend or family member over, who is also fully vaccinated, for a cup of coffee or tea. You can feel more at ease taking public transportation, or going to the store.
Since most Americans are not yet fully vaccinated, those of us who are must keep our mask on when you are around many people. However, rest easier knowing that the CDC has now determined that both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are 90% effective in preventing a fully vaccinated person from being infected (stats are not in for J&J.)
I hate to sound like a broken record, but getting your vaccine is really the best way to show your love for family and friends. If someone gets COVID-19 it can be fatal. There is a 79-99% survival rate, depending on whose statistics you use. Even using the 99% survival rate, that means if every American got infected with the virus more than 3.5 million Americans would die from a disease we have an effective and safe vaccine to prevent. That seems cruel. If there were no vaccine we would all be screaming for one to be developed and approved now!
It can get worse too. The longer we let this virus spread, the more chance it has to mutate into more contagious and deadlier variants. Widespread vaccination is the only way to mitigate the pandemic without millions of deaths and prolonged economic and social hardship.
April 29th – May 2nd, marked the one-year anniversary of the first COVID deaths in Lycoming County. That Sunday folks gathered on the lawn of the hospital to remember the lives lost, thank healthcare and essential workers for their sacrifices, and receive a message of hope for the future, at an interfaith prayer service planned by United Churches of Lycoming County andUPMC Williamsport Regional Medical Center.
Let’s end COVID! by showing the signs of your love for your family and friends – masking and social distancing as necessary, getting your vaccination, and encouraging others to do the same.
Rev. Gwen Bernstine of Williamsport, is a pastor and retired from United Churches of Lycoming County where she served as part of their ecumenical staff for 30 years. She is a member of Let’s end COVID!