Gov. Kate Brown used an apt metaphor recently regarding the COVID-19 virus and what may be in store for the state over the next month.

“We are going to be stepping out on the ice,” she said.

The statement is indicative of what has become a hallmark of the COVID-19 virus — its utter unpredictability.

The respiratory infection is now a part of our lives, a familiar signpost as we navigate our way from one day or one week to the next. The COVID-19 virus signpost is clearly one most everyone would like to avoid or ignore.

Except we can’t.

That’s because in the wake of Brown’s approval of many counties moving into phase two of a reopening, cases of the virus haven’t declined but increased in many areas of the state.

At the tail end of last week, the Oregon Health Authority reported 34 new COVID-19 cases in Umatilla County. Those new positives push the total for the county to 298.

Since mid-May, when the state began a methodical reopening process, the number of Oregonians testing positive for the virus has doubled.

Oregon’s isn’t alone. More than 15 other states are enduring a boost in cases, and, in some cases, shattering daily records.

Then there is the peculiar case of Union County. There, the county commissioners last week made an unprecedented decision to move the entity back into phase one COVID-19 restrictions after more than 200 people tested positive for the malady in less than a week.

As unfortunate as the situation in Union County is, it should be a red flag regarding what can happen if proper precautions are not in place as the state reopens.

The pandemic guidelines — social distancing, wearing a mask, staying home if you are sick — remain just as relevant today as they were two months ago.

Yet, in the end, whether we have a major outbreak here will depend almost entirely on local residents.

That means we must all heed the warnings and guidelines from the health authorities at the county and state level. Just because we’ve moved into phase two of the governor’s reopening plan doesn’t mean the virus is gone. In fact, the COVID-19 virus is here to stay. The measures adopted by the governor to stop the spread were fueled by the real fear that hospitals and other care centers could be overloaded if a major outbreak occurred.

That hasn’t happened and probably won’t. Local health centers are prepared to meet just such an emergency.

Yet, that doesn’t mean we should ignore reality and pretend everything is back to normal. It is not. And won’t be until there is a vaccine or treatment.

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