Following guidelines set by the CDC, Gov. Roy Cooper officially lifted numerous COVID-19 restrictions, including mask mandates and gathering limits for those who are fully vaccinated. I am more hopeful than ever that this pandemic will soon be behind us, and we can return to normal.
However, these lifted restrictions do not apply to those who have not received their full set of shots or have not exceeded the two-week inoculation period. I urge those who haven’t been vaccinated yet to do so. COVID-19 has not gone away completely, and we have seen thousands of new cases pop up over the last two weeks. This includes Cherokee and Clay counties, which have seen over 500 new cases in that time frame. Lives are still at risk, and we need to ensure everyone’s safety.
Getting vaccinated is not only critical for public health but also for our local hospital facilities.
In Western North Carolina over the last year, thousands of residents were hospitalized, many of whom had to be placed in intensive care units and put on oxygen. While we have quality health care facilities in our area, there are only a set number of beds and staff on-site who are able to assist a certain number of patients. Especially for those living in rural communities with only a few hospitals available, these health systems worked day and night to ensure treatment for many.
While caring for the sickest of patients, our hospitals also enforced strict rules to keep both patients and staff as safe as possible. Protocols included reduced entry, on-site COVID testing and increased sanitization procedures. Our medical professionals put their own health on the line to ensure the care of others.
To guarantee the efforts of our local hospitals do not go undone, we need to urge every friend, family member and community member to get vaccinated. As more North Carolinians get their shots, the sooner we come to achieving herd immunity, and the fewer hospitalizations are likely to occur due to complications from the virus.
Our local health systems, few but mighty, are counting on vaccination rates to increase so COVID-19 patient capacity at our hospitals does not reach or exceed capacity. Our facilities need to be able to treat those with COVID-19 symptoms, as well as those who require around-the-clock care, as well as everyday patients.
Returning to normal also means our hospital systems do not face overcapacity with COVID-19 patients, and getting vaccinated is the only way to achieve this.
Nearly half of North Carolina’s population has been given their doses. We need to continue this momentum as eligibility continues to open for younger ages. I urge you to get vaccinated and take sensible precautions. Not only will this help ensure your health and the health of your family, it will ease the burden on our local hospitals and their staff to whom we owe so much.
— Hayden Rogers
Editor’s note: Rogers reports that he served as the chief of staff to Western North Carolina Democratic Congressman Heath Shuler. After running for North Carolina’s 11th Congressional District in 2012, he served as the chief of staff for West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin. He is a native of Robbinsville.