EDITORIAL: It's up to us to prevent another surge

York Dispatch Editorial Board

We get it. Everyone wants to go back to their favorite restaurant, sit at a table inside, have a nice meal, even have a drink at the bar.

Everyone wants to see a movie or go to a live concert and dance in front of the stage. We want to watch our kids perform in a high school play or just go to the gym and not worry about whether the person on the next treadmill is breathing hard enough that their droplets are hanging in the air in front of us.

All of us want to get back to normal. But we also have to acknowledge that normal isn't normal right now. 

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On Sunday, Pennsylvania will lift some of the guidelines it's had in place to try to limit the spread of COVID-19. Changes include allowing restaurants to use up to 75% of their indoor dining capacity if they agree to adhere to the state's guidelines; raising limits on gyms, casinos, theaters and other businesses to 75% of capacity; and doing away with restrictions on selling alcohol without food and removing drinks from tables at a certain time. Capacity limits on indoor events will be raised to 25% and on outdoor events to 50%.

All of which sounded workable when Gov. Tom Wolf announced the changes on March 15. But since then, COVID-19 cases in the nation, the state and in York County have rebounded, and the Biden administration has asked states to ease up on reopening plans.

“Two weeks ago, this was a reasonable step forward; no argument,” said Dr. Matt Howie, medical director of the York City Health Bureau. “But over the past two weeks we’ve seen an escalation in cases. We’ll just need to keep an eye on this really carefully.”

A health care worker vaccinates a man at a community COVID-19 vaccination clinic run by the Philadelphia Department of Public Health at University of the Sciences' Bobby Morgan Arena in West Philadelphia on Feb. 27, 2021. (Tim Tai/The Philadelphia Inquirer/TNS)

Right now, Pennsylvania ranks sixth in the country for its case rate, with a 63% increase in daily cases over the past 14 days, according to a New York Times analysis. 

As of Wednesday, York County had seen 462 new cases per 100,000 people in the previous 14 days, the highest that number has been since mid-February and a count that ranks us 13th in the state.

"York County is in a tenuous spot," Howie said, adding that vaccine distribution will be crucial to ensure the county and state can fend off a fourth wave of cases.

And yet so many people in York County haven't received even one dose of the vaccine so far. As of Wednesday, more than 100,000 York County residents had received at least one dose, but that's less than a quarter of the population. 

Many people seem to be lifting their guard, gathering in larger groups. The Domestic Relations office at the York County Judicial Center was shut down this week after employees who had been following social distancing and personal protective equipment protocols with the public and in the halls didn't observe the same caution within the office, and the virus spread in the department.

We get it. We're all burned out. After a year of distancing, masks, hand sanitizer and eating at home, we could all use a break.

But we all saw what happened after Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's. COVID-19 cases — and deaths — skyrocketed throughout December and January.

We've gotten through that surge, but with mitigation efforts being relaxed over the Easter weekend, there's a chance for yet another surge to take hold.

It's up to us as individuals to recognize risks and keep ourselves and our loved ones safe.

By all means, support local restaurants. Get takeout, and tip well. See your older family members who've gotten the vaccine. Take advantage of the spring weather and spend time outside.

But think things through. Keep wearing a mask, and keep social distancing, and make appointments to get your vaccine.

And while you're waiting for your shots, stay smart. We might be close to the home stretch, but we're not quite there yet.