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Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger extended the county's mask mandate to Jan. 15 on Thursday, and the action no doubt left many residents seething.

Everyone's tired of masks. Some say they don't offer that much protection. Some say they're uncomfortable and unattractive. Some even have said the masks have given them a sore throat, chapped lips and adult onset acne. Really.

And, yes, we can all cite one medical official or other who at some point has said something contrary to masks being a best practice against the spread of the coronavirus. And yes, there's a load of hypocrisy in the country from politicians who tell us to mask up but don't do it themselves, or direct there be no church gatherings but are fine with mass protests.

For the most part, though, all the experts are reading off the same page: Wearing a mask protects individuals from the airborne spread of the virus better than not wearing one.

This fact has become important as the virus has begun to spread more widely as more people have to be inside for longer periods of time because of colder weather. Recall that the advent of the virus in late winter occurred just as the weather was warming and more people could be outside, where the spread is more difficult.

In other words, once again we're faced with a situation we haven't endured before — the COVID-19 virus during an entire winter.

But with Thanksgiving in less than a week, it's important to concentrate on the options we have during this battle, many of which we take for granted.

— Masks are cheap protection. And if you can't afford one, many stores and places you enter will give you a temporary one.

— Don't want to shop for whatever you're cooking for the holidays? Someone will do it for you, bring it to your waiting car and pile it in the trunk, or, even more convenient, deliver it to the doorstep of your home.

— Having a smaller family gathering allows you to sidestep that big meal of turkey, dressing and sweet potatoes that you were never wild about in the first place. Steak and baked potatoes, eggs and bacon, or frozen lasagna will do very nicely, thanks.

— Our smartphones, tablets and laptops allow us to visit as many family members as have similar devices and "stay" only as long as we want to. The stories about Aunt Ruth's Elderhostel trips and Uncle Bob's toxic breath always made the gatherings go on a little longer than necessary, anyway.

— With a day off from work, those projects around the house that you've been meaning to do will be a much better use of your time than preparing a meal for six hours that's consumed in 15 minutes and causes a logy feeling for the rest of the day.

— Local businesses need our patronage, and if we can buy online from them that is a bonus. If we can't, through our devices, we are clicks away from completing Christmas shopping lists from various retailers. Most of the same retailers will ship our purchases to us. We need only open the door.

— We can attend a religious service, contribute to our favorite charity (organizations with red kettles take credit cards, too, for example), hear a university lecture or be present at a committee meeting (ugh!) — all online.

Americans are incredibly privileged — even in the middle of a global pandemic. And as we take advantage of those privileges, the current presidential administration has made unprecedented agreements with pharmaceutical companies to create a vaccine for the virus — in record time — and deliver it to Americans at no charge.

That's not intended as a partisan statement; we hope an administration of the other party would do the same thing.

By mid-March 2021, about a year from the period in 2020 when masks, lockdowns and social distancing became familiar phrases, many of our fellow citizens — the most vulnerable, we hope — will have received a virus vaccine. Yours and ours likely will be around the corner.

So, yes, we need to keep wearing our masks — for ourselves and for the people with whom we interact. We must keep six feet or more apart from others with whom we don't interact regularly. We ought to minimize our family gatherings in numbers but maximize our outreach to family through phone, email, text and other smart devices. We should do as much or as little shopping as we desire but consider our safety and health and that of others when we do.

And, most of all, we should give thanks that in spite of the mountains of inconveniences the coronavirus vaccine has caused, we are yet so privileged in all that we have and can still do.

Is this an incredible country, or what?

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