COVID-19 is not a hoax, and we're not out of the woods yet.

A story in the March 30 Daily Press quoted local health care officials, who have heard it all in terms of conspiracy theories. There are people who actually believe those administering vaccinations are implanting microchips in unsuspecting arms. Or they believe – as the ill-informed stubbornly insist when it comes to flu shots – that the inoculation will give them COVID.

There's no end to the proliferation of conspiracy things, and not just about COVID-19. There are still people in this community – though thankfully, not as many as in other communities – who believe the election was "stolen" from President Trump, though not a speck of evidence has been produced.

By and large, newspaper readers and others who keep up with current events through legitimate sources don't believe these lies – even if they want to, and even if they wish Trump were still president. But it's up to the informed to educate their more naive friends and relatives about the truth. Only then can we overcome the polarization that continues to tear our country apart, and only then can we finally tamp down this dreadful pandemic.

Americans – and Oklahomans and Cherokee Countians, specifically – owe it to themselves to put at least a modicum of trust in the experts, no matter the subject. If something is wrong with an automobile, they accept the word of a mechanic on the source of the problem, because that guy is more savvy about car repairs than they are. If folks are curious about local history, they turn to Brad Agnew or Beth Herrington, because those two have studied the topic and know what they're talking about. Anyone who needs advice on food safety, recipes or various other aspects of home and family life, would do well to call up Heather Winn at the OSU Extension Center.

What discerning individuals should not do is troll around on social media and grab up the first bit of information they like, and then twist it to gospel truth. Social media may be a boon in terms of keeping up with family and friends, and amusing us during our down time, but it can't be counted on for accuracy. There are too many people who are involved just to cause trouble for others.

Resist the temptation to cling to conspiracy theories, or to call a cruise through social media forums as legitimate "research." That's especially true when it comes to this virus. Unless personal health, faith or other reasons preclude it, get the vaccination when it is your turn. It's true that no one may force you, but you may make others around you uncomfortable, and it's not going to wash as an excuse to avoid work or school forever. In fact, it's worth considering the possibility that certain businesses – like, say, Disney properties – may ultimately decide not to serve those who can't prove they've been inoculated.

Once again, we're all in this together, and we are, indeed, the keepers of our brothers and sisters. Help educate those who need it, and help them in other ways, too.

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