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COVID-19, state sends mixed signals

To some, it must have felt like a mixed signal.

On one hand, the state’s chief medical officer warned everyone that “we could be at the beginning of another surge.”

But, on the other hand, there was the governor, telling avid sport fans that their favorite stadium could accommodate 20% capacity. That means that, instead of 1,000 folks watching the Tigers lose their Opening Day ball game, 8,200-plus could witness the loss, as long as they followed some undisclosed COVID-19 mitigations.

So, which is it? Some must be wondering.

If the coronavirus numbers are back on the upswing, what the heck are we doing encouraging more folks to gather? You just know some of them will not be wearing masks — or, if they do, after a couple of beers and a few more home runs by the other team, the mask will end up on the ground with all those peanut shells.

Struggling to whip the virus continues to be the biggest challenge state government has ever faced, and, so far, COVID-19 has the upper hand. By mutating itself, the virus has found another route to make people sick, just at a time when the vaccines raised hopes that the light at the end of the tunnel was not another COVID-19 train.

But the British Invasion of the virus variant B117 started at two cases and now mushroomed to 750-plus, and it’s doing its thing in 31 of the state’s counties. And, like the original virus, it’s only a matter of time until the other 52 counties join in the fun.

But the variants are only part of why the numbers that were going down have started their upward swing.

Warm weather is part of the reason. More and more people are coming out of their winter hibernation, and, as more people move around, the virus moves with them.

The state health department reports that 70% of the citizens who have had contact with someone who has the disease are not going into an immediate quarantine, which is what the doctor has ordered. Instead, they continue to wander around, going here and there and potentially spreading the virus as they do.

A second factor: The governor has reopened movie theaters, gyms, and bowling alleys, and more folks are dining out, although smaller capacity ceilings on all those venues are in effect. Nonetheless, it’s just another temptation luring you to leave home.

And, speaking of sports, the latest count of COVID-19 outbreaks is over 600 including 350 at the K-12 school level and, officials report, “many of the outbreaks are related to sports.”

Wait a second. Remember all those angry moms and dads who protested on the Capitol steps that it was time to let little Johnny and Janey back on the sports field because it could be done safely?

“Bring it,” they shouted at the governor’s office, and, days later, the governor brought it.

Now, if the data is correct, and the high school athletic association is not so sure, more action on the basketball floor and elsewhere after school has produced more activity in the positive test results data.

And, for over a year, the worse place you wanted to be was in a nursing home, which consistently led the state in COVID-19 cases, but now, for the first time, “the K-12 setting for outbreaks has exceeded the numbers in long-term care facilities,” according to state Chief Medical Officer Dr. Joneigh Khaldun.

The good news is the virus is not spreading in the classroom, where safety precautions appear to be working, but it’s when the kids get out of the classroom for their sporting activities and other extracurricular stuff that the story takes a turn for the worse.

Another factor in the unwelcomed boost in COVID-19 numbers is coronavirus fatigue. Citizens have had it up to here, and they are returning to their “normal,” despite warnings such as, “We are so close to winning this battle, now is not the time to let down our guard.” Attribute that quote to Dr. Anthony Fauci, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, and local health leaders.

Yet, while that appears to be the logical thing to do, logic has been trumped by emotions, and, because of human nature, instead of getting out of the woods, we are moving deeper into it.

Some European countries have returned to a lockdown lifestyle, but there is little chatter about pulling that trigger in Michigan. Oh, sure, there are warnings that, if things get worse, some of the previous restrictions may be needed, but the governor does not want to go there.

But, if you are honest with yourself, you know it can’t be ruled out.

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