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Contact tracing, testing necessary to reduce spread

The proverbial canary has been released into the coalmine.

That’s how the phase yellow reopening should be viewed in our region as well as other places nationwide where state governments are easing orders (and others are defiantly breaking) that have confined people largely to their homes.

It has not been fun. It has not been easy.

The debate has run the gamut of the staunchest political campaign.

Some people do not feel as threatened by this invisible enemy as others.

Many feel their livelihood, from jobs to businesses, is damaged and soon may be beyond repair.

And some are absolutely afraid to leave their homes, regardless of masks and social distancing.

When it comes to masks, many wonder about the ability of cloth facial coverings to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and protect people. If everyone wears a mask, do the odds of the virus spreading go down? And by what percentage?

We looked into these questions and found that no, they are not foolproof, but they are recommended as an integral component in efforts to flatten the curve. And all of the recommended methods of mitigation combined have been working, according to Dr. Donald M. Yealy, chairman of emergency medicine at UPMC.

“Flattening the curve cannot get rid of the infections,” he recently told a Senate panel. “It simply spreads the cases out over a longer time. That allows us to learn.”

Learning and studying takes time. Work is progressing on numerous treatments and a vaccine, though a vaccine is unlikely by this fall.

That means it is essential that we continue mitigation efforts, plus contact tracing and testing.

So, yes, wear a cloth mask.

Maintain social distancing.

Wash your hands frequently.

Order take-out and delivery.

Stay at home, but get outside, sit on your porch, work and play in your yard and breathe in the fresh air. Do your part, including limited shopping with safety in mind. The conundrum is that we also must get back to business so our economy stands a chance of survival.

Look, the isolation we have all experienced during this public health crisis has been difficult but extremely important. Without our collective mitigation efforts, the numbers released daily by public health officials could be much, much worse. Looking ahead, contact tracing and testing will play an important role to get through this.

So carry on, but with great caution. And have faith that we will get through this together.

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