Kirkland Norris and Dr. Maureen Ahmann | Special to the Canton Repository
In the nearly two years since this pandemic began, our community, like many others, has been impacted by loss of life, shuttered businesses, hospitals reaching capacity, and the interruption of our lives by COVID-19.
In a time such as this — with rampant misinformation, a virus making our loved ones sick, an empty seat at the holiday table, and those still looking for work — it is hard to find the good things.
Stark County, we can tell you that the good things that make our lives better and make our community strong are still there. We must see a time like this as an opportunity to come together.
This season sees many holidays come and go, but they all have the common theme of gratitude. That is not simply gratitude for tradition or holiday favorites but for those around us.
That gratitude is seen in the coworker that lends a hand on a project when they have enough on their plate. It is seen in the person at church who devotes their retirement to helping the food pantry so others can eat.
We see it in the doctors and nurses caring for those that are ill. Gratitude can be found in the services that are offered for residents who need a place to stay, a meal to eat, clothes to wear, gifts for their children, park trails to improve their health, and transportation to get around.
We have seen gratitude in those coming to our vaccination clinics ready to take the step in protecting themselves and those around them from COVID-19. We have also seen it in our nurses, environmental staff, and administration and support staff who have gone above and beyond to respond to the pandemic.
Our community is a place where gratitude is on display far beyond this holiday season.
This year, we can be grateful for the opportunity to gather with our loved ones who we hope are fully vaccinated and may have received their booster under the new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.
Now any adult 18 years or older can receive a booster if it has been six months or more since the second dose or two months since a single dose of Johnsons & Johnson.
We gather together to relive the traditions of the past and make new ones. We can hug our relatives once again and enjoy that human interaction we all crave.
It is important that you make plans to gather safely with your vaccinated family members this year. There are safe ways for families to gather.
Living in Northeast Ohio, it may not be possible to host an outdoor gathering but wearing well-fitting masks, testing for COVID-19 before meeting, avoiding crowded and poorly ventilated spaces, and staying home if you’re sick are a few simple ways of keeping each other safe and healthy.
Lastly, as your health department, we will continue to provide you with the best information from expert medical voices, virologists, epidemiologists and researchers on why the COVID-19 vaccine is the best way to protect yourselves and others this time of year and beyond.
We hope that you will visit resources like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Food and Drug Administration, National Institutes of Health, Ohio Department of Health and our health department for any questions or concerns that you may have.
We remain grateful to all those who spent countless hours researching a vaccine and to those that have helped distribute it. You can visit GetTheShot.Coronavirus.Ohio.gov to find an appointment near you. These vaccines have gone through the normal vaccine safety process as vaccines that you or your children have received.
They have been proven to help keep people alive and out of the hospital. Your health, and that of your loved ones, is what has always mattered to us.
During this season and beyond, it is important to remember that there is a lot more that we share in common. We have always known that we are in this fight together. As we look to the year ahead, we must extend a hand, a fist bump or an elbow tap to one another.
If we do that, we can continue to move our community forward. On behalf of our Board of Health, our health department staff, and each other, we wish you happy holidays and a prosperous 2022.
Kirkland Norris is the health commissioner for the Stark County Health Department. Dr. Maureen Ahmann is the medical director for the agency.