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It is natural at the end of a year to look toward better things in the next one. I have never heard this sentiment expressed more than this time around. We have been through these terrible trials that have totally disrupted our lives. We are all focused on doing better, as we need to be, with a good end in sight.

At the same time, scientists are warning us that things will get worse before they get better. Now is not the time to let down our guard. We must persevere in order to get through to a better place or else we face even more losses than we might otherwise have.

There is no better advice than the old gospel song: Keep your hand on the plough, hold on.

We keep hearing that if we can just hold on until the vaccine comes, then we can relax and go back to normal. Based on the science, this is wistful thinking. It does not work this way.

Even after having the full vaccination against COVID, I will still wear a mask, keep my distance, wash my hands often, and refrain from travel and most inside spaces away from home and outside gatherings for a long time to come.

I am at high risk and I know that the vaccine is at most 95% effective. We still do not know if we can be carriers and pass the infection on to others.

I cannot take these risks or put others at risk by my actions.

Our new national leaders takes the science seriously. They believe in the role of good government to help all of our people. They are already focused on what unites us instead of what divides us.

We are also blessed with a senior U.S. senator who is leading the way nationally to provide the immediate practical supports that we need to get through this public health threat and support ourselves and our families.

Our challenge now is to help our neighbors to take this pandemic seriously and do their part to use precautions, get vaccinated as soon as they can, and do whatever it takes to protect themselves and each other until we all can feel safe.

We will have time after that for in person connections, reunions, and travel. The tunnel may be a long one, but we can still see the light at the end of it. The better we can do now and ongoing, the sooner we will be able to get through it.

We must love and support each other during this long and sometimes lonely process of getting to a day that is truly better for all of us.

Betty Rivard, of Charleston, is a retired social worker and planner for the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources.