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Vaccine Too Late for Many

Announcements of two vaccines that are highly effective against COVID-19 provide some much-desired light at the end of a deadly tunnel. But it is far too early for us to declare “mission accomplished” and ease up on efforts to contain the virus.

“In the next several weeks, we’ve got to get it slowed down,” Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said of the epidemic this week, during a stop at the Wheeling-Ohio County Airport.

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice recognizes that necessity. “I want us to get more control over this terrible virus that’s just eating us alive,” he remarked on Monday.

One aspect of COVID-19 that worries both governors is the that fact it has begun to hit rural areas harder than during the first six to seven months of the epidemic. In fact, the disease’s deadliness has increased exponentially in our area.

During the past week, the 10 Northern Panhandle and East Ohio counties have recorded at least 13 deaths due to COVID-19. As of Tuesday, state officials reported 2,016 active cases of the disease in the region — which is 40% of the number of infections reported since March.

Some of that imbalance is due to increased testing for COVID-19, of course. But clearly, the virus has penetrated our region much more intensively than it had previously.

Widespread use of vaccines could virtually wipe out the disease, of course. Reports this week of two vaccines that are nearly ready for production certainly is cause for joy.

But an optimistic estimate of the number of vaccine doses that will be available for use throughout the country by the end of the year is in the 50 million range.

More than 328 million people live in the United States. Initial use of the vaccines will target the most vulnerable — leaving, perhaps, 278 million of us still open to infection. Now you understand why Justice and DeWine are urging West Virginians and Ohioans not to ease up on safeguards, but to practice them more conscientiously than ever.

Yes, a vaccine is coming. The question is how many more residents will die before it becomes readily available.

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