In May, I had the opportunity to get away for a while and take some time to recharge. We decided to go to Gatlinburg — which I never had visited despite all the trips I had the luxury of taking before COVID-19. We booked a nice cabin out in the woods in the mountains and we made no plans until we got to where we were going. I disconnected my work email from my phone. I even disconnected from social media.

Upon arriving, I marveled at the beautiful Smoky Mountains. We stopped at a nice barbecue restaurant on the first day; I enjoyed some of the best BBQ that I had ever tasted. It felt great to be back to some level of normal as the last year had been consumed with contact tracing, testing, and now vaccination clinics. We had a wonderful time on our trip; psychologically it was exactly what I needed. I needed to feel that there was some sort of life outside of a pandemic. This trip presented me with such an opportunity.

Although I needed this break, I understand that COVID-19 still poses a risk to public health. In fact, the Delta Variant is currently sweeping across the world and is now listed as a variant of concern by the CDC. This means that the variant is even more contagious than former variants — and poses a higher risk of severe illness for those who have not been vaccinated against the virus.

Although I am optimistic about the future, I am still very concerned about a possible increase in COVID-19 cases and deaths. Even though society is fed up with the virus, and mask mandates have ended, the virus continues to evolve. The risk is still out there — and we must do everything we can to remain healthy while returning to some level of normal.

I have had some difficult conversations with people throughout the county about the vaccine. I have also had difficult conversations with my own family. As a county, we have only vaccinated around 38% of our total population. This is not enough to fight off variants like the Delta Variant. My greatest fear as summer fades to fall, and kids go back to school, is that we will once again be vulnerable. Those who have not been vaccinated will run the risk of being exposed, having to quarantine or isolate, and, in drastic cases, having to be hospitalized.

I understand the mental mindset that the community has right now — as I, too, have the same mindset. I am over this pandemic just like the majority of Grayson County. I want life to return to normal. I want to travel, dine out, dance, visit relatives, celebrate birthdays, etc.

However, the reality is not going away. We need more people to get vaccinated to finally win this war. We can only have victory when we face the reality and do our part. Otherwise, we can ignore it as much as we want but the threat is not going away.

There are plenty of opportunities to get vaccinated. There is also time for children (12 years/older) to become fully vaccinated before school starts back. I do not want us to ignore the threat. I want us to face it head on and finally win the war.

I am asking all of you to join me. If you are not vaccinated, get the vaccine. If you have a family member who is still sitting on the fence, have those difficult conversations. You might be the voice they need to hear before taking the step to get vaccinated.

For more information about getting the COVID vaccine, call us at 270-259-3141. You also can visit www.graysonhealthcenter.org/vaccine.

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