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But now’s not the time to let down our guard

While much slower than any of us would like, the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine is providing a badly needed dose of optimism that we may be, just maybe, looking at the beginning of the end of this awful pandemic.

So far, in excess of a half-million Florida residents — including more than 15,000 right here in Volusia County — have been vaccinated. That’s good news and a good start. But we’ve got a long way to go.

And that’s why when it comes to the CDC guidance on things like wearing a mask, social distancing and avoiding large gatherings, it’s not time to let our guard down.

I get it: We’re all tired of this stuff and are ready for a return to normal, pre-COVID life. I know I am! But prematurely abandoning all of the health guidance now would be a terrible mistake.

As I’m writing this column, all the COVID stats are still trending in the wrong direction. Where the number of new daily cases in Volusia County at one time was hovering between 15 and 30, the daily average is now more like 315. And where 5 percent or below is the goal, Volusia County’s positivity rate during a recent 14-day period ranged between 8.55 percent and 16.05 percent, with an average during that period of 10.3 percent.

These numbers are way too high, and probably won’t drop significantly until the vaccine becomes much more widely available and many more people get it. Until then, we simply must stay vigilant in continuing to do those things that we know are effective in protecting against the spread of the virus. To stop now would just make things that much worse, make many more people vulnerable, and make it that much harder to get the virus under control.

This is a critical time in our response to the pandemic, both locally and globally. Relaxing safety practices would result in needless illness and deaths. Following CDC health and safety guidance is still as important as ever.

Please continue social distancing, and wearing a mask when you can’t. And please continue frequent hand-washing and avoiding gatherings. The rollout of the COVID vaccine is cause for excitement. It’s cause for hope. But it’s not cause to let our guard down!

— Girtman is a member of the Volusia County Council, representing West Volusia District 1.

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