The number of active coronavirus cases in Cochise County has been declining.

We hopefully are seeing a light at the end of the tunnel, and assumedly it’s not a train or a second wave.

On July 13th we peaked with 530 active COVID-19 cases reported. Now we are at 50 reported cases, according to the Cochise County Health Department.

If the pandemic is being brought under control, the question facing us now — what’s next?

In six months, our lifestyle and personal practices have changed dramatically. The question is whether they will remain as is or whether they will revert to a pre-COVID 19 lifestyle.

The majority of individuals now wear a mask when they go out in public because of community requirements or common sense, but masking up has become perplexing political symbolism. On the last evening of the Republican National Convention, the audience on the South Lawn of the White House, who were seated shoulder to shoulder, were not wearing masks.

But at Democratic gatherings, masks are worn, which raises the question what is the future of masking while in public? In essence, which group prevails with mask wearing and at what point is the issue of mask wearing resolved?

And what about our educational system? Currently there has been a great deal of pressure to return to school under numerous restrictions designed to thwart COVID-19. This process has just started, but some schools are already reporting COVID-19 cases amongst the student body.

Will the schools be able to keep their doors open, or are they going to have to backtrack to another technique? And if so, then what will that delivery system be? One thing we can do is say “thank you” to our educators for all they are doing.

A technological procedure that hadn’t been widely known six months ago, Zoom, has been a life saver to groups needing to have meetings. Will this technique continue and minimize face-to-face gatherings?

And what about working at home? Business has found that this is a successful operational technique which minimizes office rental costs. Will working at home be part of the new normal in the business world?

I guess the BIG question is when can we declare the coronavirus war over? When can we say ”we won” — or will we ever be able to say definitely ”we won”? A real danger is saying “we won” too soon, or making a victorious declaration based on political rather than clinical rationale.

Another dangerous practice is questioning the serious of the coronavirus. You have to scratch your head in wonderment when Arizona Congressman Paul Gosar says the concern being shown is simply an overblown political ploy to influence the presidential election. I wonder if the 202,861 Arizonans with confirmed cases of the coronavirus or the families of the 5,065 Arizonans who have died from coronavirus agree with him?

I have enough grey hair on my head to remember President Roosevelt’s Fireside Chats on the radio. His words and messages were quite calming and comforting. His famous quote, ”We have nothing to fear but fear itself” was meaningful to us. One thing I remember most is that we believed the president, and having confidence in the veracity of our president was and is important.

Once a vaccine is developed, how many individuals will believe a pronouncement that a safe vaccine is now available? How many will believe an announcement that the coronavirus had been conquered? How many people will get a vaccination once it becomes available?

I suspect one of the key factors will not only be an announcement “the war is over” but that this announcement came from someone in whom people have confidence and trust, such as Dr. Fauci.

Mask up!

Lanny A. Kope, EdD has been a hospital trustee for over forty years, serving on urban and rural hospital boards. He is the past Board Chair of Sierra Vista Regional Health Center and has had a national responsibility as Chair of the American Hospital Association’s Committee on Governance. Dr. Kope is also a University of Phoenix faculty member in health care.