Anyone driving in Franklin County these past few beautiful days was likely to see throngs of people outside enjoying themselves. Parks were buzzing with activity. The patios and decks of restaurants and bars appeared busy.
If there is a pandemic still lingering, you would be hard-pressed to notice its effects locally. People are out and about enjoying summertime activities.
Many are doing so without wearing masks and without observing strict social distancing guidelines.
We are becoming more lax when it comes to taking precautions against the deadly virus.
So is government.
Following a national trend, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson announced last week he was lifting all state-imposed restrictions on businesses designed to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
We don’t quarrel with Parson’s decision to ease restrictions but Missouri, like the rest of the country, is not out of the woods when it comes to beating the coronavirus. Far from it.
Health experts warn a second wave of COVID-19 infections could occur as social distancing restrictions lift and more people gather. Recent data suggests that is already occurring.
The Associated Press reports that COVID-19 cases have been rising in nearly half the states. There is evidence cases are on the rise in Missouri as well, at least in some locations.
That includes Franklin County. Seventeen new cases were reported in our county last week, bringing the total to 165. Of those reported cases, 124 people have recovered.
There have been 18 deaths related to the virus locally, including another last week.
In our county, most of those deaths have been older residents of skilled nursing facilities with underlying health conditions, according to county officials. But young people are among those here newly infected.
There is no single reason for the surges, according to the health experts interviewed by the Associated Press. In some cases, more testing has revealed more cases.
In others, local outbreaks are big enough to push statewide tallies higher. But experts think at least some are due to lifting stay-at-home orders, school and business closures, and other restrictions put in place during the spring to stem the virus’s spread.
Parson said that the identification of new cases in Missouri is likely to continue as the state ramps up its testing capacity, which is now averaging more than 10,000 tests per weekday.
So while it may seem counterintuitive as people finally abandon home confinement and return to a sense of normalcy, now is an opportune moment to talk about doubling down on preparations for the duration of the pandemic.
In fact, the conversation is more important than ever, as social distancing begins to fade, heightening the risk of spreading infection.
Parson said as much in his order lifting the restrictions urging Missourians to be proactive and continue to take precautions. He’s absolutely right.
Everyone should at a minimum follow the standard advice to prevent infection: Wash your hands often for at least 20 seconds; wipe down commonly used surfaces in the house with disinfectants; wear a mask; and, above all, observe social distancing guidelines.
But perhaps the most important thing you can do is get yourself tested if you think you may be positive or if you are symptomatic.