Just more than 11 months ago — on Saturday, July 25, 2020 — we made a small, but significant change to the top of our daily front page.
We added a small red mask image to the flag — that’s what newspapers call their name in big type on page 1A.
Starting that day, and continuing until this morning, we had a mask image wrapped around the bottom of the letter D in The Daily Item.
The change came at the suggestion of a reader who called and urged that we do something to remind Valley people how important wearing a mask was in the ongoing fight against the COVID-19 virus.
I agreed, and the change was made quickly. The small red mask image had The Daily Item and #wearthemask in white letters.
On the day we added the mask to our flag, our lead headline on page 1A below it read: Pennsylvania adds 1,213 virus cases. That was the highest the statewide number of cases had been in two months. Little did we know that by the end of the year, that number would be back over 8,000 cases a day for a while, and hit as high as 12,884 on Dec. 5.
Wearing a mask to help fight that surge seemed like the most prudent thing to do. The medical experts all agreed, and we wanted to support them.
There was never a political agenda about it, despite what some may believe.
Today we have taken the mask down, because on Monday, June 28, the mask mandate will be fully removed across the state, except in Philadelphia.
Some have suggested we should replace the mask image with one of a syringe, to encourage vaccinations. We’re not going to do that, but with just barely 59 percent of the state’s population fully vaccinated right now, count on a reminder of the importance of getting vaccinated to appear frequently in this column and on our Opinion page.
I hope we’ll never again be in a position to have the mask image return. Right now, things are looking pretty good in the commonwealth, with fewer than 200 new cases reported each recent day.
But I am getting concerned about what I’m reading about elsewhere in the country. As new variants arise — the very highly contagious delta strain is the most significant — the case numbers in some states are rising with them.
The CDC reported at the end of last week that Florida had the most new cases in the past 7 days with 10,329. That was about the same as the previous week.
Texas was second with 7,408 new cases and California third with 6,706 new cases, almost 3,000 more than the previous week. The increase, variants aside, appears to be more about people not getting vaccinated than anything else.
As awful as this pandemic has been, seeing a resurgence here and elsewhere would be even worse if it was mostly because so many have chose not to take the shot.
By the way, wearing a mask even now is not a terrible idea. One of our sports reporters mentioned the other day that he hadn’t had as much as a sniffle over the past year and suggested that once he goes back to covering indoor sports like basketball and wrestling, he thinks he’ll go back to wearing one.
Our mask is gone as of today. But if you see someone still wearing one, please don’t be a jerk. If it makes them feel more secure, so be it.
And if you are required to wear one, as is still the case on flights and at doctor and dentist offices — please just do it.
Email comments to email@example.com. Lyons is on vacation next week. His column will return on Sunday, July 11.