In a year when very little is the way it once was, where traditions, customs and rituals have had to be rearranged or discarded, we may be wondering just how festive our holiday season will be with a global pandemic continuing to hold sway.

Many thought that by this time of the year, COVID-19 would be a receding memory. In fact, many of us thought it would have faded during the heat of June, July and August. We have learned a lot about this virus, and there is still much more to learn about a virus that apparently isn’t going away anytime soon.

Positive COVID-19 cases are on the upswing, and according to the Centers for Disease and Control, forecasts for COVID-19 show cases increasing over the next couple of months. Virus cases topped 11 million in the U.S. over the weekend — 1 million of them recorded in just the past week. The pandemic has killed more than 1.3 million people worldwide, more than 245,000 of them in the U.S. Locally in Rockdale and Newton counties, as of Sunday there had been 2,334 positive cases in Rockdale and 46 deaths and 3,108 positive cases in Newton and 101 deaths.

There is hope on the horizon, however. Vaccines developed by several pharmaceutical companies are nearing the final stages of development and could be approved for emergency deployment before the end of the year. Even so, the vaccine supply will be limited, and widespread vaccinations aren’t expected until sometime next year. When that time comes, Georgia’s Department of Public Health has a plan to deploy a vaccine on a mass scale.

In the meantime, we can all do our part to protect ourselves, our families and others. It’s really simple, and by now we’ve all heard it time and time again. Gov. Brian Kemp, who renewed COVID-19 restrictions on Friday, said it this way:

“Continue to wash your hands, wear a mask, watch your distance, follow public health guidance, and get a flu shot. By taking these simple steps, we will protect lives — and livelihoods.”

Kemp’s renewed order keeps in place a ban on gatherings larger than 50 people in Georgia and continues to make wearing a mask voluntary at the statewide level rather than mandatory. Cities and counties have been allowed to impose their own mask mandates since August so long as their local requirements do not apply to businesses and residences.

As we head into the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday seasons, we should be mindful of these guidelines as we plan get-togethers and celebrations. Now is not the time to let down our guard. Now is the time to ingrain these new routines and follow them diligently. It could mean a brighter new year for all of us.

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I have been editor of the Rockdale Citizen since 1996 and editor of the Newton Citizen since it began publication in 2004. I am also currently executive editor of the Clayton News Daily, Henry Daily Herald and Jackson Progress-Argus.

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