Shawnee County is hoping to move to the second phase of the Governor’s COVID-19 reopening plan on May 18. Last week’s totals of new positive virus cases were the second highest so far. That gives us reason to pause and wave a yellow flag of caution.
An increase of 21 new cases over the weekend and reports of two facilities with several people being affected gives us a reason to raise a red flag.
In other words, we think Shawnee County needs to slow down. Some will argue that the increase in positive cases is because of increased testing. That may be accurate, but Shawnee County hasn’t yet started widespread testing.
What’s more, these latest numbers don’t account for relaxed restrictions. COVID-19 cases can take up to two weeks to appear, which means we won’t know the consequences of shifting from safer-at-home restrictions to phase one for another week.
Add to that the gatherings of impromptu graduation parties, Mother’s Day and the upcoming Memorial Day weekend, and we see ample potential for spikes in the days ahead. From quick checks in the community over the weekend, it is sadly apparent that too many still aren’t taking the threat of the virus seriously. People aren’t wearing face masks. They aren’t observing social distancing. They aren’t doing the things we all need to do to make further changes to county rules possible.
Many suggest virus-related restrictions are because of partisan politics. We counter by leaning on widely respect Johns Hopkins University as our measuring stick. If we are in their safe zone in two weeks, we will openly support the easing of limitations.
Most of us are tired of the pandemic. We understand and share in the feelings of “quarantine fatigue.” Our business has suffered like most. We especially feel for independent contractors like hair stylists who have lost all of their income. But it is better to remain in phase one of the reopening than bound ahead heedlessly. We think it is easier to delay than it would be if we had to reverse course.
With freedom comes responsibility. Shawnee County residents aren’t forced to do what is right. They are being asked, with the understanding that ignoring that advice could put their friends and loved ones at risk.
They still aren’t doing it. And we’re seeing the evidence as cases continue to rise.
Those paying the price aren’t those behaving selfishly, of course. Those paying the price are the elderly, those with underlying health conditions, and the array of businesses that should remain shuttered until the public wakes up to the challenge we all face.
There is no contradiction between robust public health and a robust economy. They go hand in hand. Until we can all be assured the risks are manageable, consumers can't be out in force. Each one of us has the ability to practice safe behaviors and slow the spread.
Once that happens, and only then, will we be ready for phase two.