Seeing recent growth in COVID-19 infections, we compliment people who have managed to stay the course. It is not easy, but those of us who have held true to pandemic protocols are helping to fight back wave after wave of infection.

Last week, we reported on a “sixth wave of COVID-19 infections as the world marked the two-year anniversary of the pandemic on Dec. 31.” We quoted the Oregon Health Authority on new cases, deaths and hospitalizations. Oregon had then reached 5,655 deaths and 421,263 infections. Hospitalizations were up, too, fueled by omicron, an infectious new variant.

It is sad to see our numbers have not improved since last week. According to the Oregon Health Authority the state has grown in infections – 478,203, as of Monday, Jan. 10. OHA also informed us that total deaths grew to 5,779.

The OHA reported 16,738 cases and 188 deaths in Umatilla County, and 2,207 cases and 26 deaths in Morrow County.

These numbers hit hard, as each one represents a neighbor and a loved one.

Leading experts have given us their best advice for containing the illness, and these suggestions have remained the same for a long time now. Mask, vaccinate and keep distance, they said; experts continue to say these things.

Around town, many people still are taking the suggestions of our best scientists and top healthcare workers. At restaurants, many servers are masked. In grocery store checkout lines, many people stand 6 feet away from the people ahead of them. And so on.

These actions are a hassle, for certain. Masks are uncomfortable, and social distancing seems anti-social. Still, if it saves even a single life, it seems worth it. Our experts tell us that our actions save many lives, so it is right to continue – not because they are authorities, but because they are knowledgeable and they are likely correct.

So, too, many of us vaccinate. In Hermiston, COVID-19 vaccines are available at Family Health Associates, Good Shepherd Health Care System, Hermiston Family Medicine, Mirasol Family Health Center, Rite Aid, Safeway and Walmart, according to Umatilla County Public Health. In addition, there are clinics that have popped up in many workplaces and schools throughout our region.

People still are getting their vaccinations. We know this is true, because we have seen them do it, and we applaud them for it. Many of the holdouts have struggled with this decision, and they are especially worthy of praise. Afterall, it is not easy to give up on a strongly held belief after it is held so firmly for so long.

At this point, it is getting hard to believe the pandemic will ever be over. Now two years from the date that we first heard of the coronavirus and COVID-19, it feels like many ages ago. It can, then, be tempting to give up on any hope of an end, and perhaps let the virus win. Some people have even advocated letting the coronavirus “wash over us” and take the people who are most at risk so that the rest of us can live normal lives.

For those of us who continue to follow the experts and heed their warnings, however, we suffer the discomfort willingly. We seek the end of the pandemic, and we want to stand with as many people as possible at the end of this dark tunnel. We cannot give up now.

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