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EDITORIAL: Progress, but not the end

This week, Lawrence County got some welcome news as the Ohio Department of Health moved the county from Red Level Three to Orange Level Two on its latest update of the state’s COVID-19 alert map.

In addition, the county no longer is marked with the “H” designation for high occurrence of the virus.

The improvements are a good sign as our local health department continues to work to vaccinate thousands in the county.

But, while things are moving in the right direction, it is worth remembering that Level Two on the map is still considered a public emergency by the state health department.

In Lawrence County, the number of cases stands at 80.7 per 100,000 people and, while this is much better than many parts of the state, it is still above the 50 cases per 100,000 standard the state will use to lift health orders for Ohio.

And, while the county saw improvement this week, there are troubling signs that the steady statewide decline Ohio has seen since New Year’s may be coming to a halt as cases begin to plateau and, as was the case this week, tick up slightly.

Which is why it is important for people to not let their guard down at this key moment.

As our local health department urges, please make arrangements to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

And, for all, including those vaccinated, please continue to follow guidelines, employ social distancing and wear masks in public.

A number of variants and mutations of the virus have been detected in the U.S. in recent months and the only way to prevent these is to stop the virus from circulating. And this is why continuing guidelines after vaccination are important for now.

If everyone works together, the pandemic can be brought to an end and we may be able to see a return to many of the events and activities we enjoy this year.

But this will only happen if the public remains committed to the effort.