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In a fair application of COVID-19 standards, Kittitas County should have been allowed to advance to phase 2 of the state’s reopening plan even in light on the outbreak at Twin City Foods.

As it is, the county was informed Monday that it will need to wait until May 26.

It is true that the county’s COVID-19’s number took a sharp jump with the Twin City outbreak — as of Tuesday afternoon the county’s total number of cases since the start of the outbreak climbed to 64, with 49 of those associated with Twin City employees and their household members.

The stated goal, though, has been to flatten the curve to avoid overwhelming local medical facilities. That has been accomplished in Kittitas County. None of the new COVID-19 cases as of yet have required hospitalization. According to the Kittitas County Public Health Department, all the patients are stable.

At some point in time when it’s allowable, we need to give every single person involved in the Kittitas County Incident Management Team a pat on the back, high-five or hug (depending on a person’s comfort level for such things). They have done absolutely exceptional work.

As bad as it is to watch people get sick, right now our local system has the capacity to treat them if any of the cases deteriorate.

If the standard is the ability to effectively manage and limit an outbreak, Kittitas County qualified. If the standard is no COVID-19 cases then that was never realistic or obtainable.

The willingness of people to endure an extended lockdown is beginning to fray. That’s being seen across the nation.

Given that the coronavirus is not going away, the focus needs to be managing and modifying our behavior. We have seen many examples of what not to do. As soon as the Wisconsin Superior Court lifted that state’s lockdown order, people were packing the bars that night, not practicing any measures to limit the spread of the virus.

At stay at home order protests, people do not wear masks or practice social distancing while trying to make the point that they can be trusted to behave in a responsible manner without government intrusion.

Part of the problem is the logical inconsistencies of the stay at home orders. Right now people shop at Fred Meyer, Safeway, Grocery Outlet and Super One, with spotty mask usage at best. From a public health standpoint, those stores are a far higher risk of being a source of community spread than a downtown shop, such as Claim, Royal Sport, Evolve, Mountain High Sports or really any of the small shops.

In fact, in a small shop, shoppers are more like to comply with a sign that says, “please wear a mask,” or a heartfelt request from the shop owner. The small stores typically are not packed to the point that people cannot social distance. It is nonsensical to say that any of the large grocery stores are safer than a small downtown shop. There also is nothing stopping any of us, except for common sense, from going to the Yakima Costco where we can mingle with people experiencing the highest percentage outbreak on the West Coast.

We have learned from the Twin City outbreak that in the right setting, COVID-19 spreads pretty efficiently. If we thought we lived in a COVID-19 free bubble, Twin City should have burst that fantasy.

We have to learn to live with COVID-19. That means wearing masks in public settings and socially distancing. It means adjusting school structures to return to classroom instruction to the highest degree possible. It probably means there are things we won’t do until a vaccination is readily available. It is hard to imagine 60,000 to 70,000 people packing a stadium without a spread of the virus.

We need to be smarter in how we enact restrictions and how we behave as individuals. Wearing a mask or not wearing a mask is not a political statement. The initial response to COVID-19 did not allow for any subtlety. Living with COVID-19 a far more complex balance of public health and personal freedom.

We don’t just need to do better. We have to do better. Our lives and livelihoods depend on it.

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