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Editorial: County can unite community to slow increase

It’s unfortunate that large portions of Rowan County’s population have simply moved on with life after an initial COVID-19 lockdown.

The mask order was just a suggestion. The governor’s crowd size rules were just a recommendation. Pictures of events in the pages of the Post regularly show both of these.

But the nation, state and community of Salisbury and Rowan County appear to be at the precipice of the spike that’s been feared. Now more than ever, it’s time to unite around a common cause: wear a mask, wait 6 feet apart, wash your hands regularly, avoid large crowds and, until things get better, stay away from most indoor gatherings of people outside of your core family group.

Usually led by County Commissioners Chairman Greg Edds and a group of commissioners first elected in 2014, the community has found ways to cooperate on many issues — from the economy to school. The county is a better place to live because of their leadership and the courage they’ve had to face tough issues head on.

Commissioners might find inspiration to unite the community again around an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19 — something that has rarely, if ever, been the case in 2020 — from a quote during a June 2017 meeting where commissioners approved a declaration of interdependence.

“I think folks are looking to us not as parents but looking to us to lead,” Edds said at the time. “That’s what we’re trying to do — to lead by example and also to try to get out in front of the community and show that this county needs to take its rightful place in this region in education, in the economy and in every way we can think of.”

To be clear, COVID-19 has already been devastating to too many people in Rowan County. There are empty seats at dinner tables, fewer weekly phone calls to relatives and holes in too many hearts because of the deaths brought by COVID-19, which is getting worse after Election Day and certainly not evaporating into thin air.

Rowan County’s average daily increase in case counts is starting to look more like a straight line and less like the squiggle hovering in the same range, which it’s been over much of the pandemic. On Saturday, there were nearly 700 active coronavirus cases in Rowan County after a week that brought two of the largest increases yet.

True, many people will contract COVID-19, be sick for a few days, recover and be just fine. But too many others will be hospitalized and never fully recover or pass away after a tough battle with COVID-19. A story starting on page 1A (“More than a COVID-19 statistic”) shows just how many people our community has lost.

County staff and commissioners have done significant work to provide the Health Department with resources to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, but words and actions matter. County leaders can do more by speaking publicly about the importance of taking the coronavirus seriously.

In March, local leaders  held a press conference to project calm and communicate in the face of a new threat. It’s time to project a new message.

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