Case counts for COVID-19 and deaths attributed to the virus are climbing at alarming rates across our region, the state and the country.

Still, we continue to see too many people refusing to wear masks and unwilling to take other precautions to slow the spread of this disease.

Folks, the novel coronavirus does not care about party politics or who won which election. Those who thought COVID-19 would vanish like a puff of smoke once the elections had passed were dangerously wrong.

Pennsylvania set a single-day record for new virus cases on Wednesday, then broke that record on Thursday — when 4,711 new cases were reported. As health care reporter Randy Griffith wrote, during the spring virus surge, the highest total was just under 2,000 cases on April 9.

Nearly 10,000 Pennsylvanians have died as a result of contracting the coronavirus, state Department of Health data show.

Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said the rising virus numbers should be a “call to action for everyone in Pennsylvania. COVID-19 is right here and we are at a critical point. We all need to take steps to prevent the spread of this virus.”

Levine noted that the spike in positive cases is not being caused by increased testing alone, because the rate of positives is also rising, along with the number of people being treated in hospitals.

”I do not think we have peaked,” she said, adding: “It has not become less virulent. This virus is still very, very dangerous.”

Texas became the first state with more than 1 million confirmed COVID-19 cases as of Wednesday, and California was approaching that dubious threshold on Friday. Texas has had 19,000 deaths. The nation has recorded more than 240,000 deaths and 10.3 million confirmed cases, with new cases hitting all-time highs of more than 120,000 per day over the past week.

Cases per day are on the rise in 49 states, and deaths per day are climbing in 39, the Associated Press reported. The country is now seeing nearly 1,000 deaths per day on average, up from 730 a month ago.

In Ohio, Republican Gov. Mike DeWine on Wednesday ordered tougher enforcement of mask-wearing at businesses, and threatening to close bars, restaurants and fitness centers if that neighboring state’s surge isn’t slowed.

”Throughout our country’s history, each generation has faced unique sacrifices,” DeWine said in a statewide address on Veterans Day.

Dr. Donald Yealy, UPMC chairman of emergency medicine, echoed that appeal when speaking with reporters Wednesday, urging Pennsylvanians to “practice the public health principles that we know work” — social distancing, frequent hand-washing and wearing protective masks.

”The way you get infected is you get a dose of the virus and then you have a response of the body,” Yealy said. “If the mask either prevents that dose or lessens the dose, the response of your body has a better chance to fight things off.”

We all want the freedom to gather with friends, attend sporting events and community celebrations and experience life as we knew it before the arrival of COVID-19.

Nobody enjoys wearing a mask or maintaining a distance from others. But we must do so nevertheless.

Vaccines and better treatments are on the way.

In the meantime, let’s all do our part by taking the virus seriously and making the welfare of our neighbors and loved ones our top priority.

— The Tribune-Democrat, Johnstown (TNS)

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