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Time to wake up, accept COVID is here

There was a point in time this summer where I was speaking with a local parent. He told me that the Coronavirus was not here, so sporting events could go on as normal, at least here anyway.

While that wasn’t really the case then, it certainly isn’t now.

We were at 227 cases in Houghton County at the time of printing on Monday. Today, that number has jumped to 336.

Let that sink in. We have jumped by over 100 cases in less than five days.

We can blame Michigan Tech. Sure, let’s do that.

Michigan Tech has increased the volume of testing in the community, sure. To date, they have completed 4,560 tests of students, faculty, and community members on campus. They have detected 141 cases since July 2020.

Don’t believe me? Go look for yourselves on Michigan Tech’s web site: mtu.edu/flex/testing/statistics/.

That helps account for the spike in cases, but that is not the only reason our numbers have skyrocketed.

They also tried very hard this summer to work out faster testing for the community as a whole.

Let’s get back to the topic at hand.

We hovered around 40-70 cases for most of the summer before this recent spike. In just the last two days, Houghton County has jumped to the top of the U.P. in total cases.

We can also place some blame on the Western U.P. Health Department (WUPHD) for their inability to provide accurate tracing fast enough. Yes, board members Glenn Anderson, Roy Britz, and Gretchen Janssen all had six months to sort out their testing regimen with the other eight members of the WUPHD’s Board of Health, but to be honest, Houghton County seemed to have things under control pretty well, considering the fact that it seemed as though numbers in the county were not changing very fast while numerous hot spots exploded throughout the state and the country as a whole.

I am sure that their next meeting on Sept. 28 is going to be a contentious one as they try to figure out where/if they went wrong with their planning.

While it is easy to blame these large entities for any shortcomings they had through this growing crisis, there is another direction we need to be looking. What direction am I talking about? Take a look in the mirror.

Parents, coaches, and community members spent the summer pushing state officials, via social media and other outlets, to reopen schools on time this fall. As schools prepared to reopen, trying to get as many different options available to students as possible, the next push was for high school sports to resume.

Parents had watched their student athletes miss valuable Little League and Spring high school sports time, and wanted to make sure that their kids had the chance to compete. You really cannot blame them for that.

As state officials announced the return of some fall sports, namely individualized activities like cross country and golf downstate, and cross country and volleyball in the U.P., one sport was missing, football. This led to another several rounds of complaining on social media, this time by parents, coaches and former high school athletes about how much today’s athletes would miss by not participating.

State officials buckled, allowing football activities to resume earlier this month.

Shortly after that announcement, team sports coaches took to social media to both praise the decision and simultaneously attack mask restrictions for their athletes.

On Monday, parents who attended Houghton-Portage Township schools’ board meeting in person argued for looser restrictions on masks for all students, not just athletes.

Last night, Calumet-Laurium-Keweenaw Superintendent Chris Davidson sent a message to the parents in his school system that WUPHD was closing all the schools in Houghton County for two weeks due to how they were struggling to keep up with “local testing, tracing, and treatment.”

It is time to get over ourselves. COVID is here, in the community, no matter whose fault that is. We all need to take a step back, and understand what this means.

It means no one is safe. It means we all need do our part to protect ourselves and others.

It means that if a store, a restaurant, a school, etc., requires you wear a mask before entry, do it.

It means wash your hands, vigorously. Sing a song while you do it. It can make washing your hands fun.

It means be mindful of those around you. If you are at Walmart, Pat’s IGA, Jim’s Foodmart, Louie’s, etc., wear your mask. It also means stand six feet apart. If you standing close enough to hear the person on the other end of a phone call while they are talking to the person in front of you, you are too close.

Stay safe, Copper Country. Your lives matter.

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