The coronavirus pandemic that came onto the scene more than nine months ago continues to dominate work, play, school and family life. We are writing about this once again because Ohio is facing a record number of cases and hospitalizations due to COVID-19.

As of early this week, 3,000 Ohioans were being treated in hospitals for COVID-19, including 700 patients in intensive care units.

Complicating matters is the onset of cold weather, causing us to spend more time indoors closer to each other. On top of that, it is flu season.

COVID-19 case numbers continue to be overwhelming, almost losing their shock value. But to give you some idea of the seriousness of the most recent upswing, consider that at the end of September the average number of new COVID-19 cases per day was about 1,000. Compare that to the Ohio Department of Health’s report on Tuesday of 7,079 new cases in a 24-hour period.

Some individuals still don’t believe the statistics or heed the advice of health experts. Others are taking sensible steps to protect their families, co-workers, neighbors and strangers by wearing a mask, keeping a safe distance and washing hands frequently.

Municipalities have reduced hours or closed public buildings. Schools are balancing their mission to educate while keeping students and employees safe. Knowing the right thing to do can be difficult. Chagrin Falls Exempted Village School District is moving forward with its plan to switch from a hybrid model to all-in instruction for kindergarten through sixth grade. That was the recommendation from Superintendent Robert Hunt, even though case numbers are rising and he himself just contracted COVID-19.

Kenston Local School District earlier this week began working on a plan to move to remote learning if this upward trend continues. Though the district began the academic year with in-person classes, Kenston officials are not sure if or when they will implement the remote plan. Geauga County Health Commissioner Thomas Quade, who has been working with Kenston and other school districts, noted that daily case counts have been doubling since September with no change in sight.

Munson Fire Department Capt. Brian Gray said emergency departments at area hospitals are inundated, describing one night when rescue squads sat waiting with patients outside hospitals that ran out of bed space, even in the ER hallways.

On Monday, the CEOs of the three major health systems – Cleveland Clinic, University Hospitals of Cleveland and MetroHealth Medical Center – alerted area residents to the surge in COVID-19 cases. They called it a turning point.

We should listen to the health leaders in our community who advise us to rethink our Thanksgiving dinners and to keep in-person gatherings to a minimum. A safer option is to use digital formats to connect with family and friends on this and the other winter holidays.

Gov. Mike DeWine has put a new 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew into effect this week for 21 days in yet another move to slow the spread of the coronavirus. “The basic science is fewer contacts, less spread,” he said.

No doubt he will get pushback from conservative state lawmakers who have been skeptical of health orders since the beginning of the pandemic.

But there is so much at stake here. We don’t want to see restaurants, retail stores and other businesses shut down again. And we don’t want more people to get sick. So the precautions now more than ever make sense.

In the midst of all that’s going on, there is a glimmer of hope. Two drug companies – Moderna and Pfizer – announced the likelihood of having COVID-19 vaccines available by late this year or early next year. Final approval, as well as how the vaccines will be rolled out to the public are among the questions that must be answered.

Until then, we all need to do our part to celebrate our holidays wisely and keep each other safe.

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