EDITORIAL: Good habits: Continued precautions help COVID numbers improve

It’s been almost two months since Gov. Greg Abbott lifted all state restrictions on social conduct with regard to the COVID-19 pandemic. When those restrictions were lifted here, in one of the first states and certainly the largest to do so, many feared that a new surge of infections — and deaths — could follow, as occurred when a partial pull-back was attempted last year. Fortunately, that hasn’t happened.

Apparently, we learned our lesson, and many Texans recognized that the risks of infection continued. Although state mandates were eased, local restrictions were maintained in areas where infection rates remained high. Those local orders were scaled back more gradually as numbers improved at each location.

To be sure, the vaccines that became available in December have helped greatly; increasing the number of people who are immune to the coronavirus can only reduce transmission rates. But while the immune members of our communities grow in number every day, a majority of Americans are still waiting for their vaccination shots. Surely, other factors have helped COVID numbers continue to improve.

More importantly, most stores, restaurants and other private businesses continued to regularly sterilize shopping carts, writing instruments and other items and require that customers and employees wear masks and keep safe distances from each other.

Fortunately, those requests met very little opposition and resistance, unlike several incidents, sometimes violent, of people refusing to comply when the restrictions were first imposed last year.

For all of this, we can only say thank-you to everybody for understanding the continued risks, and complying with whatever requests were made.

Let’s keep it up.

Many people are celebrating their new freedom by traveling, going out to eat and casual shopping for the first time in months. Obviously, those activities increase our exposure to other people and, potentially, to the coronavirus. This makes proper hygiene and other health precautions just as important now as they were at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As if we needed more incentives to play it safe, reports indicate that face masks, social distancing and even washing our hands more frequently, and more thoroughly, have paid off in other ways. Healthcare professionals report that in addition to maintain down pressure on COVID infections, reports of colds, flu and other communicable diseases fell also.

And our overall better health is largely due to simply adopting better habits, like spending more time washing our hands and keeping the surfaces of tables, doors and other common items cleaner. That, plus the relative ease of maintaining those habits, should provide plenty of incentive for us to continue practicing them.

Sounds easy enough. But history has shown that reduced COVID-19 infection numbers could lull many Texans into complacency, and slowly erode those bad habits. Let us do our best to avoid this, and continue those simple habits that can keep risk of catching not only COVID-19, but also other illnesses to a minimum.