It is relatively easy in a place such as Haliburton to feel safe from the pandemic ravaging the world We have wide open spaces and a small population.

We have had only 15 confirmed COVID-19 cases as of Sept. 8, and even though that figure would exclude any cottagers with primary residences elsewhere, it is apparent cottagers have not spread the virus much, if at all. We have not had to write many COVID-case updates in the past few months because the cases are so few and far between.

But with provincial cases spiking and kids returning to school this week, we cannot afford to be complacent.

The virus is very real – contrary to whatever distorted information is appearing on your Facebook feed. Although we have been well in control of it for months thanks to public health and community efforts, cases in the province are on an upward trend. There are many more months – perhaps years – to go in this battle and we can ill afford to forget.

That is especially important with kids going to school this week for in-person learning. Although our schools have put a lot of effort into making things as safe as possible, there is no getting around the possibility the virus can spread around our classrooms. Even with mandatory masks and enhanced cleaning, the province’s failure to ensure smaller class sizes adds a fair amount of risk to back-to-school.

Although we cannot all control what is happening in schools, as communities, we need to do our best not to spread the virus to help ensure it does not get into our classrooms. That is not foolproof, but for whatever it is worth, it is what we should do for the sake of our children and brave educators.

Haliburton should be commended for how well we have handled things so far. We are blessed by our circumstances, but by-and-large, most people are following the rules well. Masks have quickly become normal. Businesses and organizations have taken those needed extra safety steps. Our health unit has worked tirelessly to guide us through this. We have become seen as a sanctuary; though it is hard to verify, we are hearing rumblings about cottagers deciding to make Haliburton a permanent home due to the pandemic.

But all it takes is a few slip-ups to cause an outbreak. Authorities have warned us for months about a second wave and we must brace ourselves for that possibility. With summer soon over, it may be tempting to gather with others indoors to escape the harsh chill of fall and winter, but we must continue following social distancing protocols. For the safety of ourselves and the people around us.

Perhaps this is all just beating a dead horse – we have all been bombarded by this messaging for months now. But as this pandemic keeps stretching on, I fear it has become increasingly difficult for people to resist breaking recommendations out of a desire to interact more closely with friends and family we have missed. Especially in a place such as Haliburton, where it feels as though we are relatively safe from the virus.

But if we want to keep feeling safe, we all must do our part. We are in a marathon and we have a long way to go.

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