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Our view: It’s not over
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Our view

Our view: It’s not over

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President Joe Biden announced Thursday that the government will double to 1 billion the rapid, at-home COVID-19 tests to be distributed free to Americans, along with the most protective N95 masks, as he highlighted his efforts to "surge" resources to help the country weather the spike in coronavirus cases. Biden also announced that starting next week 1,000 military medical personnel will begin deploying across the country to help overwhelmed medical facilities ease staff shortages due to the highly transmissible omicron variant. Many facilities are struggling because their workers are in at-home quarantines due to the virus at the same time as a nationwide spike in COVID-19 cases. The new deployments will be on top of other federal medical personnel who have already been sent to states to help with acute shortages.

The Journal’s front page on Thursday was COVID, COVID, COVID, as Forsyth County reached a record high for new cases. Even the stories about worker shortages and the approaching winter storm that is predicted to cover our yards and roads with snow — mixed at times with freezing rain and sleet — this long weekend are related to the continued pandemic. Several of the workers who would normally drive the trucks that salt and clear the roads are at home, either with COVID or quarantined because of potential exposure, the Journal’s John Deem reported. Winston-Salem is trying to get ahead of the storm by treating bridges and overpasses on Friday, but if you’ve not bought the bread and milk yet, go now. Wear your mask.

In some ways, life seems to be returning to normal, especially among those who have been vaccinated. They can, to some extent, breathe and relax and mingle with others they know have taken the proper precautions.

But the record high of 1,186 COVID cases reported in Forsyth County on Wednesday serves as a harsh reminder that the omicron variant is living up to its billing as highly contagious. Nine-hundred new cases were reported among county students and staff last week, the highest since the school year began.

And though it’s thought to be less severe, the potential for death remains a cause for concern. As we write, 450 patients in the state are on ventilators.

Also earlier this week, the chief executives of the Triad’s three largest health care systems — Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist, Cone Health and Novant Health Inc. — warned the public that all of their hospitals were at a critical stage: Their ICU beds are reaching full capacity, overwhelmed by COVID patients. Infections have increased among their own staffs, also, the inevitable result of exposure to the virus among those sick enough to require medical attention. In a full-page ad in the Jan. 9 Journal, Novant Health wrote: “We are not telling. We are not asking. We are begging. Get vaccinated. Do your part. So we can do ours.”

The strain being placed on our doctors and nurses is incredible, and if something doesn’t give, they’ll eventually be unable to assist when they’re most needed. That’s not their failing — it’s the failing of a recalcitrant public, led astray by false prophets and political aspirants, that after more than a year still refuses to take personal responsibility.

And though some say they’d rather be infected than be vaccinated, we doubt they’ve fully taken into consideration the very real “long-hauler” symptoms that linger indefinitely in up to 30% of COVID victims. They include shortness of breath, scarring of the lungs, inflammation of the heart, the loss of smell and taste, brain fog, fatigue and headaches. Some of these effects may last for life.

The Supreme Court on Thursday blocked the Biden administration’s rule requiring larger businesses to ensure that workers receive the COVID vaccine or wear masks and get tested on a weekly basis — rules that many businesses are already enforcing on their own. Right or wrong, the Court’s ruling will lead to more COVID deaths.

“It’s hard to process what’s actually happening right now, which is, most people are going to get COVID,” Dr. Janet Woodcock, the acting commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, said during testimony before the Senate earlier this week. That outcome would seem inevitable when faced with people who insist on their right to become infected and to infect others.

Imagine that indictment — that the United States failed to defeat an entirely preventable virus. We appreciate her candor — and she may be right — but we’ve not given up hope yet. It’s possible to avoid COVID.

And, if infected, it’s still possible to survive. The point of power is in this moment. It’s not too late, as President Biden urged on Thursday, to get vaccinated. It’s not too late to abandon the contrarian philosophy of trying anything except what’s been proven to be effective. (Are they really trying urine therapy? It seems so.)

Even former President Trump has been promoting the vaccines developed during his administration. “The ones that get very sick and go to the hospital are the ones that don’t do the vaccine, but it’s still their choice,” he told conservative commentator Candace Owens in a recent interview. “And if you take the vaccine you’re protected, the results of the vaccine are good.”

While COVID tests have been difficult to obtain, vaccines are available on practically every street corner.

This long weekend, with a possible snowstorm that might create a more pleasant sequestration experience — the vision of sitting in a warm room, drinking hot chocolate while watching snow fall outside has to be appealing — presents the perfect opportunity to get that first jab and go home to recover. It’s a decision that would be greeted with praise and gratitude from family members, neighbors and healers. It would be patriotic — helping cut the line through which the virus travels to fellow citizens. It would be kind.

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