Editorial: Timely reminder as COVID cases rise: You may mask up

In what seems to be a seasonal rite of the past several years, the return of children to school and the approach of cooler weather has led to a notable increase in serious COVID cases.

Columbus Regional Health officials have seen an uptick in cases resulting in hospitalization lately, and as The Republic’s Andy East reported, outpatient offices are dealing with a surge in patients seeking treatment for respiratory viruses including COVID.

Earlier this month, CRH said four or five people a day were being admitted to the hospital for treatment of COVID — a reminder that the virus is still very much with us and causing serious health effects for people in our community. And though the virus is not as virulent as it once was for a host of reasons, COVID continues to pose significant health risks, especially for people with weakened or compromised immune systems.

As East reported:

  • There were 195 hospitalizations in Indiana the week of Aug. 19, up from 148 the previous week and 51 on July 1.
  • While deaths from the virus remain at historic lows, about 400 to 600 people nationwide have been dying from COVID-19 each week since June, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • A total of 101 Hoosiers have died from COVID-19 since June 1, including 25 deaths in August, according to the most recent figures from the Indiana Department of Health.
  • The virus has killed a total of 268 Bartholomew County residents since it first swept across the world in spring 2020.

Recognizing these facts, and responding to their mandate to protect and promote public health, CRH officials took the prudent step last week of advising people to consider masking when they are in high-risk settings such as crowded public spaces.

We can already hear some groans, and we understand that. No one likes to hear it.

Nevertheless, we must continue to be mindful of facts on the ground in our community. Masking is sound advice for anyone who may be immunocompromised or who may have household members who are. The breadth and sweep of coronavirus over the past several years counsels toward caution when cases start to rise, because as we have witnessed, cases can skyrocket quickly.

“Spread continues to be high, so people should still be diligent,” CRH spokeswoman Kelsey DeClue told East. “Crowded indoor spaces and air travel pose high-risk exposure settings, so folks should consider masking in those situations.”

Likewise, significant numbers of people simply feel more comfortable and better protected wearing masks in crowded settings. It’s a choice.

We understand that COVID fatigue is real. We don’t think anyone actually likes having to wear a mask in public, and plenty of people may feel they have no reason to do so. That, too, is choice since we are no longer living with the terrible public health consequences we witnessed during the pandemic.

But we also can’t let our guard down. And when cases rise as we are seeing, we understand that the best guard that many people have, aside from being vaccinated, is the protection afforded to themselves and others by wearing a mask in high-risk public settings.

The (Columbus) Republic is a sister newspaper to the Daily Journal. Send comments to [email protected].