Cochise County is making national news, and not in a good way.

This week, as family and friends began to gather for the Thanksgiving holiday, area hospital officials reported COVID-19 cases are “ … on the rise,” with no end in sight.

Copper Queen Hospital in Bisbee was forced to go to crisis standards of care on Monday night, shutting down its operating room so nurses in the surgical unit could be redeployed to care for critically ill COVID patients.

Canyon Vista Medical Center reported last week 40% of its patients on the acute care floor were being treated for the disease and Willcox is reporting a 30% increase in the number of cases since the first of the month.

What’s happening here is happening all over Arizona. Tuesday health officials pleaded with people to “get the shot,” as COVID-19 continues to deplete hospital resources across the state. Arizona added another 3,000 cases and 120 deaths to its pandemic count on Tuesday, bringing the totals to more than 1.2 million cases and the number of deaths to 22,062 since February 2020.

Much of the media criticism is focused on Gov. Ducey for his decisions not to impose mask mandates and to oppose mandatory vaccinations.

We don’t think it’s that simple.

Arizona’s culture of independence is legendary. Our collective beliefs in gun rights, protection of personal freedoms and our willingness to stand up against the federal government has distinguished the state’s reputation for its self-determination.

With that reputation, however, comes responsibility.

Those who choose not to get the vaccination do so at their own risk. We respect that everyone has their own reasons for not getting the shot, but the effectiveness of the vaccine is now unquestionable. The significant number of people who have not been inoculated in Arizona has pushed the state into the top 10 in the nation for its number of COVID cases.

In states that have imposed strict requirements for people to get the shot or endure weekly testing, the number of cases has increased, but not at the alarming rate we are experiencing in Arizona. In the Northeast, where vaccination rates are high, most states had only modest surges in the late summer, but in many of them, cases have been trending upward since early November. Case rates in California, Oregon and Washington have stayed relatively low.

Gov. Ducey’s advice is to consult your physician and we agree. His quote to a reporter’s question on Tuesday sums up the situation.

“Well, I think you do everything you can to get the facts out there,” he said. “You want to go to a physician versus Facebook, that’s what I would say.”

Take on the responsibility of finding out the facts from verifiable sources. Consult your doctor or call a health care professional before you make up your mind on your course of action to combat COVID.

If you have already received the vaccinations, and it was six months or longer ago, it’s time to go get a booster.

We’re never going to rid ourselves of this pandemic if we don’t take the personal responsibility of at least listening to a healthcare professional.