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As virus declines, let’s not forget all we’ve learned

We are as thrilled as everyone to see the number of COVID-19 cases on a steep decline — but we caution, let’s not go crazy yet.

Last week, our state experienced a nearly 50 percent decline in COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents in one week. That was the third straight week of declines after 11 consecutive weeks of increases.

The week saw a 49.3 percent drop from the previous week and a 329 percent decline from two weeks earlier statewide.

Locally, the one-day new COVID-19 cases in Mahoning County reported on Wednesday, for instance, was only 33. New cases for the day reported Wednesday in Trumbull County was only 26.

New COVID-19-related hospital admissions reported the same day in Mahoning County was only 7, and in Trumbull County, it was 5.

All of this is wonderful news.

As a result, we now are seeing the region’s businesses, retailers, entertainment venues and even schools reconsidering their mask mandates and other COVID-19 restrictions.

Just this week, for instance, Youngstown concert venue Westside Bowl, which had among the strictest COVID-19 restrictions in the area, announced it is relaxing the rules effective immediately.

Leading up to the week’s announcement, the venue had been requiring proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test to attend shows there. While those policies are commonplace in many larger cities, Westside Bowl was the only local venue booking national acts in the Mahoning Valley with a policy so strict.

One of the venue’s owners told our entertainment writer Andy Gray he was feeling comfortable that we have reached the point to start relaxing restrictions on who may be allowed to enter.

We are equally optimistic.

Still, we caution the declining case numbers should not be construed as a license to forget all that we’ve learned about being safe and health conscious over the past two years.

We caution about continuing the good hand-washing and sanitizing lessons we’ve learned over the past two years. We urge everyone to exercise extra caution and awareness when you’re out in a large crowd. When possible, continue practicing social distancing. If you’re more comfortable masking up, by all means, do that. If you’re feeling sick or under the weather, please stay home. And, of course, health professionals still are advising that vaccines work in easing the symptoms of COVID-19 for many of us and in helping to keep us out of the hospital if we do become ill.

Let’s pray we’ve seen the last COVID-19 variant rear its ugly head and we finally are moving toward a real end to this scourge.

Still, let’s not forget what we’ve learned.

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