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Editorial: Set targets, speak up about getting vaccinated

As the pandemic wanes because of vaccinations and reduced infection rates, people will go back to the lives and routines they enjoyed prior to March 2020.

Particularly in a place like Rowan County, most people will plan events, attend them and potentially spread COVID-19 regardless of restrictions in place. It’s already happening. Too many people have decided the pandemic is nearing an end or already over and that a few dozen new cases reported each day is acceptable.

Leaders, from church pastors to the White House, should introduce and amplify the message that getting vaccinated means a return to life as it was. People pay attention to what leaders say in private and public, particularly when they hear the same messages from all sides. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention got a good start when saying last week fully vaccinated Americans who wear masks can travel with low risk.

To the degree there are still restrictions to lift, Gov. Roy Cooper should set a clear vaccination target for the public. A group project without a goal is unlikely to succeed. Setting clear vaccination goals may slow progress shortly after they’re accomplished, but the alternative is to watch people not follow guidance and not get vaccinated.  That getting vaccinated protects people from dying and being hospitalized with a preventable illness has not proven to be a compelling enough argument for the general public.

Vaccination appointments initially were snatched up within minutes. Now, they sit unclaimed for multiple days in Rowan County. Maybe the fact that all adults can be vaccinated starting this week will help.

There’s a role for local elected officials, too.

Remember when county commissioners embarked on a campaign to get people to work together and encouraged positive politics? The community embraced the message and helped forge a still-improving future for Salisbury and Rowan County. It’s time to dust off that messaging. Commissioners can do more to speak up about COVID-19 precautions and the importance of getting vaccinated. They may claim otherwise, but so far they’ve only passed a ceremonial resolution in support of mask wearing, social distancing and washing hands regularly.

Without messaging from people with diverse viewpoints and clear targets for restrictions going away, it’s probably impossible for much of the country to reach herd immunity. It’s hard to imagine counties like Rowan will come close — somewhere around 60% or 70%. Rowan County lags behind state averages for vaccinations and just topped 20% of residents vaccinated. Even counting the roughly 15,800 positive COVID-19 tests in the county (people who have some degree of protection) and factoring in people who had the virus and didn’t know, there’s work to do.

If local leaders were looking for a time to do more on COVID-19, this week is as good as any.

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