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OPINION: Community’s response to coronavirus truly remarkable

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When COVID-19 arrived here in March, Sarnia-Lambton quickly emerged as a hot spot with one of highest infection and death rates in all of Ontario.

The virus swept through our senior homes, filled a hospital ward with the sick, and killed 25 of our friends and neighbours.

Since then, however, this community has achieved a remarkable turnaround, one that deserves to be recognized.

As of Monday, just three people were known to be COVID-positive. One new case had been reported in two weeks, all eight senior home outbreaks were resolved, and the hospital was COVID-free and flush with capacity.

From worst to first, Sarnia-Lambton and its 123,000 residents have jumped to the front of the line for the next stage of Ontario’s reopening.

How did this happen?

Our civic and public health officials have done an excellent job of crisis response, providing leadership and regular, fact-based information.

But what’s really impressed me are the people of this community, the way they’ve listened and reacted responsibly.

Yes, a few non-masked, bird-flipping louts are still barking at service workers because their precious lives have been disrupted. But as a community our response is exemplary. We’ve washed our hands, distanced ourselves and self-isolated when sick — and even shown a sense of humour doing it.

This damn virus has done tremendous damage. Families are grieving, our mental health strained. The economy is propped up by government aid coming from who knows where.

The Journal, like most businesses, has been impacted. Even as we expanded our online content the print newspaper has, for the most part, come out only every second week.

But as more businesses reopen it’s The Journal’s intention to resume regular weekly publication again, starting this week and for the foreseeable future, unless of course things go south again.

All the progress Sarnia-Lambton has achieved can quickly be undone. And make no mistake; COVID-19 will come roaring back if we let down our guard.

The United States is the world’s poster child for the perils of complacency.

After flattening its curve the U.S. surpassed 131,00 deaths this week with cases in most states going up, not down.

Hospitals in California and Arizona have filled up again and many states have hit pause on reopening plans.

Florida, where the governor accused the media just a few weeks ago of COVID-19 fear mongering, is locked down again, its beaches and bars closed for the July 4 weekend.

Locally, the virus is still here. It isn’t dead. Become careless and resurgence is inevitable. Health officials say the objective is to keep the number of cases low and manageable until a safe and effective vaccine is available.

But for today, let’s take pride, with a round of applause for Sarnia-Lambton’s incredible achievement so far.

And when we’ve finished clapping let’s remember to sanitize our hands.

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