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Spending the last couple weeks nursing the ribs I bruised when tripping over a doggy gate, I had some down time to think about my health and how I've tried my best to stay healthy during the pandemic.

Like most of us, I've always paid attention to my health, but I upped it a notch during the pandemic, taking every precaution possible to keep the virus at bay. I started taking vitamins I never took before, got three doses of the Pfizer vaccine and I wear a mask as though it's an extension of my body.

I don't want to contract the virus and pass it to my grandchildren who are too young to be vaccinated.

I'm a believer in science. Two of my children, Karah and Kit, are scientists. Kit's expertise involves COVID research, so you can bet your bottom dollar I'm a cheerleader for vaccines, boosters and wearing masks.

Going to a hospital during the pandemic was a challenge for me. Not everyone in our area is a believer in science. Half the population here hasn't been vaccinated, and as many or more are against wearing masks. I didn't want to encounter any one of these people in the emergency room.

Before I left my house, I called CHI Memorial in Hixson and spoke to an emergency room staff member telling him my fears of COVID-19. I was told that COVID patients are treated in a separate area and that everyone entering the hospital has to have their temperature taken, wear a mask and use hand sanitizer.

When I arrived, there were only two people in the emergency waiting room.

My biggest fear of late is contracting the virus via the delta variant breakthrough and passing it to my grandchildren who live next door. Two of them are not old enough to be vaccinated.

Weeks ago, one of my granddaughters tested positive. When she got the result, she didn't take it well. When I was told, I didn't take it well either. Though we were on opposite sides of town when my daughter got the positive test result, I have no doubt that my granddaughter's cries equaled my own. (I'm rather emotional, and I'm glad my granddaughter didn't see my reaction. It would have terrified her. Thankfully, my daughter handles these situations much better than I.)

Thankfully, it was a false positive and subsequent tests were negative.

But, just like I've been since the pandemic started, I was terrified. I don't want my grandchildren to contract COVID-19, and, realistically, there's a chance they will. Many of the children they go to school with don't wear masks, and, sadly, some of these children may unknowingly spread the virus.

To see how many children are testing positive in our area for COVID-19, the Hamilton County Department of Education established the COVID-19 Reporting Dashboard. According to hcde.org, the district wants to be as transparent as possible with the public about what is happening in area schools.

The website includes the number of active confirmed COVID-19 cases and exposures in area public schools, as well as percentage of positive cases for employees and students by month. The district has been tracking employee COVID-19 data since March 16, 2020. Student data tracking began on Aug. 12, 2020.

"Our rate of positive cases mirrors the positivity rate for Hamilton County as a whole," according to the website. "This web page has an embedded, real-time data dashboard, created using Google Data Studio. The information will update in real-time as it is recorded by HCS personnel."

I applaud our school system for releasing this information to the public.

One day, hopefully, the pandemic will be history, but it's something we should never forget because it's feasible that another pandemic is on the horizon.

To date, the virus has claimed more than 700,000 lives in America, and the numbers are increasing daily.

Dealing with COVID-19 has been a way of life for me. I chose to err on the side of caution by getting vaccinated and religiously wearing masks.

And, just so you know, I err on the side of caution by never again stepping over a doggy gate. I learned that the hard way.

Email Karen Nazor Hill at khill@timesfreepress.com.

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