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Proactive or passive — it’s a choice

The longest day of the year has passed. It’s officially summer, and Fourth of July weekend is quickly approaching. The warm weather is pulling people outside to get together with friends and family; plans are in the works for barbecues and beach weekends.

On the surface, it’s the beginning of summer like any other summer before.

It’s not.

Three months ago, the state, like many others, shut down businesses and gatherings to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The hope was to “flatten the curve” to make sure North Carolina hospitals weren’t overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients; the hope was the virus would, like the flu, peter out come warmer weather.

Three months ago, most county residents were taking the threat of COVID-19 seriously: at the least, staying home and washing hands frequently. It can’t be said enough that Beaufort County is fortunate in a small population spread over plenty of rural space has worked in our favor. There have been few COVID-19 cases here; a maximum of 13 known active cases at any given time.

Most people grew tired of the isolation a while ago. Because we’ve had so few cases here, that initial threat of COVID-19 seems to have been exaggerated. It really hasn’t affected us. As time has passed, many have gradually eased back into pre-COVID life. And, really, no one can blame people for wanting everything to go back to normal.

But we’re not in a normal time. It’s not normal that the percentage of people testing positive for COVID-19 in North Carolina continues to increase. It’s not normal that the percentage of people who have no symptoms testing positive continues to increase. It’s not normal that the number of people hospitalized for COVID-19 symptoms continues to increase. It’s not normal that more than 1,300 North Carolinians’ deaths have been attributed to COVID-19. It’s also not normal that North Carolina residents are now required to quarantine themselves for two weeks after arrival should they travel to New York. Three months ago, New York was the epicenter of COVID-19; it’s now in recovery mode, where North Carolina has made little forward progress.

The hope that COVID-19 would die off, like the flu, when confronted with warmer weather was a false one. Flu season is over; COVID-19 season is not.

The risk is in thinking because COVID-19 hasn’t been much of a problem here, it will never be a problem here. The risk of refusing to take personal responsibility to stop the spread of the virus is dragging this saga out indefinitely. The risk of complacency is becoming a hot spot of the disease.

Personal responsibility is handwashing, mask-wearing, social distancing. If everyone does their part, it means an actual, proactive end to a pandemic, rather than a blind, passive hope for one.