Sam Overton Headshot

Winter is coming, and it doesn’t look so good. With COVID-19 case numbers rising across the country, Americans seem to be heading toward a nasty cold-weather spike in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths. While I know many of you may not want to hear this, with phase 3 set to expire Oct. 23, Gov. Roy Cooper needs to let those relaxed protocols fizzle out and set stronger, more restrictive ones in their place.

The upcoming winter season is a crucial time to implement strict measures to keep North Carolina citizens safe. After Nov. 3, I’m willing to bet that the national government will be focused on something outside of our control — whether it be a Bush v. Gore round two or some other political nightmare. Although we’ve gotten used to this “restricted” lifestyle, many aren’t taking it seriously enough to prevent a catastrophic fall and winter.

To refresh your mind, a shift back to phase 1 would close restaurants’ dine-in services, personal care and grooming businesses, health and fitness facilities and entertainment centers. Before you click off this column at the thought of exercising at home for a few more months, I implore you to keep the health of your fellow citizens in mind. Whatever privileges you’ve been enjoying over the past few months — safely or not — it’s time to shelve our pride as a country and settle back into our homes for a little while longer.

The amount of superspreader events that could potentially occur over the coming weeks are reasons alone to take action now. From Halloween parties to “Friendsgivings,” many people are going to push the boundaries of COVID-19 restrictions as far as humanly possible in order to salvage any semblance of normalcy. Setting more strict protocols in place isn’t “killing the vibe” or “ruining the holiday season,” it’s vital to the health and safety of millions of Americans. If we don’t take precautions seriously, twice as many Americans could be dead by the end of this hellish year. That’s almost half a million people — the equivalent of over 130 9/11 attacks in the span of nine months.

However, in order to prevent the untimely deaths of so many citizens, precautions must be set in place right now, before a wave that will undeniably trigger an enormous spike of cases. That means the end of dine-in restaurants, indoor gym facilities and nail salons, at least for a few months. College students, especially, have to stay vigilant. For most of us, we carry the benefit of being young and healthy in the midst of a pandemic, easily recovering from short bouts of COVID-19, if we have any symptoms at all. As families and friends converge in their hometowns for the holiday season, it can be tempting to spend a night with an old friend. After all, the pandemic feels a lot less scary when your age group makes up less than 0.2% of all COVID-19 deaths. Even so, there is absolutely no excuse to endanger your loved ones with a disease that could impact their health and livelihood in ways that you cannot fathom.

I understand if this has left you with an extremely bleak picture of the months to come. There’s no denying that this winter will be more difficult than most, especially in the wake of a high-stakes presidential election. With this in mind, it’s important to remember that there is light at the end of the tunnel — from Dr. Anthony Fauci’s indication that we may have a vaccine by April 2021 to the Olympic Games next summer. In the meantime, it’s up to us to hold our local politicians accountable to implement tougher COVID-19 prevention protocols and follow them tightly, no matter the social cost. When it comes down to seeing your best friend under unsafe circumstances or possibly protecting the lives of loved ones and strangers, please stay home this holiday season.