This year has been devastating and heartbreaking for some, challenging and frustrating for all. The country is deeply burdened by sharp division and economic uncertainty while trapped in the worst pandemic since 1918. Yet we persevere because that's what people do in the midst of difficult and trying circumstances. We are bent but not broken.
"This too shall pass," we tell ourselves. "We will get through this," we say to each other. Better days are coming. For now, we do our best to stay positive and hopeful, finding ways to keep body, mind and soul together, never forgetting that our most important duty is to take care of those close to us and to be there for others in our orbit who are in need of help. This year hasn't been kind to us, but we can be kind to each other.
We are presently in the most ominous and deadly phase of the pandemic since it began. With winter at our doorstep, Covid-19 infections are broadly skyrocketing. We are faced with an aggressive and unrelenting virus spreading unabated through communities, including our own in Northwest Arkansas. No community is off the hook. No person or family is beyond the reach of this invisible enemy. No small business or big company is yet free and clear from it. After being mired in a pandemic since March that has profoundly disrupted our lives, it's not surprising the will to fight this (expletive deleted) virus has weakened at the same time the virus has strengthened and its scope has widened.
Safe and effective vaccines will be a huge difference-maker but are likely still many months away for most of us. Until then, everyone must take personal responsibility to exercise caution and good judgment to protect our collective health. It's a given that ending this pandemic is the only way to get the economy back to hitting on all cylinders. We can't have a robust economic recovery until we have a public health recovery.
Practice safety for yourself and for the sake of others. Consistently follow all the public health guidelines designed to slow the spread of the virus. Be willing to make individual sacrifices for the common good. Don't put politics or personal convenience over public health. The virus doesn't care who you are, what you do, what you believe or who you voted for. Masks are not a political statement -- they are a public health necessity. Wearing one is the right thing to do. It's not asking too much and isn't about taking anyone's freedom away. It's about common sense, common purpose and common decency.
A few additional thoughts:
• Covid-19 infections, hospitalizations and deaths are quickly trending upward in Northwest Arkansas. Hospital intensive care units are filling up, requiring overextended frontline healthcare workers to do their jobs under stressful, tiring conditions, often at risk to their own health. These nurses, doctors and other health care personnel have fought the good fight for nine months already and now it appears even bigger battles lie ahead. It's crucial that community spread of the virus be mitigated in the coming weeks if we are to keep our hospitals and health care workers from being overwhelmed and to help our health systems maintain the ability to effectively meet the needs of all their patients. At Thanksgiving this year, say a prayer for our health care workers. They have earned our everlasting gratitude and respect.
• Every community should pay tribute to its dedicated teachers. They have borne a heavy load this school year, admirably meeting every challenge along the way. That teachers have stepped up to be there for their students during the pandemic is a genuine credit to their profession and speaks volumes about their commitment to the value of education.
• On the election front, those alleging widespread voter fraud or a "rigged" or "stolen" election for purely partisan reasons and in the absence of objective facts and credible evidence to support their claims are doing a real disservice to the country. It's essential in a democracy for people to accept the results of a free and fair election. To baselessly attack the integrity of the election is an unwarranted insult to every honest and hard-working election official and poll worker in America. To undermine the outcome of a presidential election and to cast doubt on its legitimacy among a significant portion of the electorate is a worst-case scenario for any democracy. It's terribly dangerous to the nation and, if unchecked, could potentially break our democracy.
• There are plenty of concerns as Thanksgiving approaches. The pandemic hovers. The economy ails. Unity remains elusive. But none of that diminishes what Thanksgiving means to us. There's still much to be grateful for and, despite our problems, we are lucky to be alive and to live in Northwest Arkansas.