It seems like each time a season changes this year, we seek to relax our efforts to stop the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. Summer came and we started reopening more and more businesses. Fall is here and many folks appear to be relaxing social distancing — including some of our own public officials on the campaign trail.

“With new coronavirus cases declining nationally, and in Maryland, it’s tempting to take our eyes off the ball and relax. But let’s not get lulled into complacency,” said Bob Atlas, president and CEO of the Maryland Hospital Association in a statement issued Oct. 7. “With the weather cooling and sending people indoors, with school starting, and with flu season around the corner, this is likely just halftime for COVID.”

COVID-19 is not gone — not by a long shot. It speaks volumes to how this pandemic is still going strong when our own president — the most protected man in the United States — catches the coronavirus.

Queen Anne’s County Health Department reports that as of Tuesday, Oct. 13, there have been 730 confirmed cases of COVID-19 here. Three residents are currently hospitalized. Since the pandemic began, 22 local residents have died from the virus, according to county statistics. The state puts that number higher — 25 deaths with another one listed as probable.

And as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website reminds us: “COVID-19 can be spread by people who do not have symptoms and do not know that they are infected.”

Restrictions are continuing to loosen here and throughout the state. Queen Anne’s County Public Schools is moving forward with its Reopening Plan to bring students to school for face-to-face instruction at 50% capacity and high school athletics are slated to start conditioning and practices soon.

That means more people having more contact. That means an increased risk of community spread. That means we have to be all the more diligent in adhering to public health measures to protect ourselves and others.

Even as Gov. Larry Hogan loosens restrictions, he continues to remind Marylanders to mask up to “support Maryland’s ongoing health and economic recovery.”

“Wearing a mask is the best way to keep ourselves and our families safe, and to keep Maryland open for business,” Hogan said in a statement issued Oct. 8. “I wear my mask for my three daughters and four grandchildren. We are all in this together.”

We urge everyone to follow Hogan’s example and to heed the advice of so many health officials from the federal to the local level.

“We know that wearing a mask in public spaces is a simple but effective way to help slow the spread of COVID-19,” said Maryland Department of Health Secretary Robert R. Neall. “Combined with maintaining social distance, washing your hands, and participating in testing and contact tracing, you can help keep your community safe.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website states plainly that masks “may help prevent people who have COVID-19 from spreading the virus to others” and that masks “are most likely to reduce the spread of COVID-19 when they are widely used by people in public settings.”

CDC Director Robert Redfield, an infectious disease expert, testified before Congress last month that masks are “the most important, powerful public health tool we have.” He said if we all followed guidelines in wearing them the pandemic could be brought under control in up to 12 weeks.

“We have clear scientific evidence they work and they are our best defense,” Redfield testified.

We all want to be done with the COVID-19 pandemic. But it is not done with us. We continue to have community spread, but we also have the means to protect ourselves. Please keep wearing masks and practicing social distancing.

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