From the Kearney Hub of Nebraska

BY MID-MARCH, Americans will have reached the one-year anniversary of the emergency declaration for COVID-19. Looking back over those 12 months we see encouraging signs. Topping that list of positive news is the success of ex-President Donald Trump’s Operation Warp Speed. In less than a year we’ve developed several safe and effective vaccines.

We are fortunate to have unraveled the riddle of the coronavirus so rapidly. However, we seem incapable of unraveling the mystery of what motivates Americans. At a time when long lines should be forming for Americans to be immunized, scores of people are expressing their doubts about the shots. Even some health workers are dragging their feet, even though you would expect people battling the virus on the front lines would desire some protection from the illness that’s killing 4,000 Americans per day.

If it doesn’t feel remarkable that we’re approaching the one-year mark in our battle against the coronavirus, here’s a sobering thought: Public health experts are expecting that, growing at the rate of 4,000 deaths per day, the death toll will have reached 500,000 in the United States by mid-March.

It took the United States just 16 weeks to register 100,000 deaths, rising from 200,000 to 300,000 deaths overall. However, our death toll is revving in high gear. Medical experts tell us deaths rose from the 300,000 mark to 400,000 mark in only four weeks.

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At that pace, it would be a mathematical miracle if we don’t record 500,000 deaths by mid-March.

These numbers don’t lie. They’re telling us the coronavirus remains a deadly serious threat to our health and to our lives, and yet we hear Americans thinking twice about taking the vaccine when it’s available to them. Being immunized is the best defense against contracting COVID-19, but unless the vaccines go from the syringes into people’s arms, it will be a waste. In order to develop the herd immunity against COVID-19, at least 75% to 80% of Americans need to get their shots.

The vaccine will be far less effective if the percentage of vaccinated Americans fails to reach the 75% to 80% immunization level for maximum effectiveness.

Infection rates are down slightly and stabilizing. That’s good news, but we cannot rest, we cannot let down our guard, until enough of us have been immunized, but with vaccine supplies falling short of what is expected, we’ll all be waiting months longer than we were told to expect.

That means masking and social distancing continues to be necessary. We need to take care to sanitize surfaces and wash our hands frequently.

Avoid crowded places with poor air circulation. We all need to remain on high alert and take this pandemic seriously. It may take longer, but we’ll see this through.

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