After almost two and a half years, COVID-19 is still a huge part of our lives. Just look at the national numbers as of Friday, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Total deaths: 1,027,370.

Total cases: 91,676,264.

Current hospitalizations: 37,113.

Both Murray and Whitfield counties are currently in the medium risk for community spread, according to the CDC.

Whenever we hear the word “normal” or the phrase “return to normal” we instinctively breathe a sigh of relief. But “normal” may be much further away than we’d like. Due to new coronavirus variants (which are more contagious than the original virus and previous variants) and many people’s refusal to be vaccinated, often because of unfortunate continuing disinformation campaigns, the number of new COVID cases are increasing.

The toll has been excruciating to us mentally, spiritually, physically and in countless other ways. As schools and colleges across the area reopen in the coming weeks, parents, students and school employees may feel trepidation as classroom instruction returns. Gone are the days of virtual learning. Masks are no longer required — or heavily recommended — in schools.

We have a tool — the vaccines — that can help us tamp down the insidious virus.

The CDC recommends COVID vaccines for everyone 6 months and older and boosters for everyone 5 years and older, if eligible. According to the CDC: “The benefits of COVID-19 vaccination outweigh the known and potential risks.”

“COVID-19 can make children and teens very sick and sometimes requires treatment in a hospital,” according to the CDC. “Getting eligible children and teens vaccinated against COVID-19 can help keep them from getting really sick if they do get COVID-19, including protecting them from short and long-term complications and hospitalization. Vaccinating children can also help keep them in school or daycare and safely participating in sports, playdates, and other group activities.”

We must do everything we can to protect our children in school, as well as the many people who contribute to their day — teachers, administrators, janitors, cafeteria workers, crossing guards, etc. Consider having your child wear a mask while at school, and if eligible, have your child vaccinated.

Let’s keep our children safe.

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