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Pinal County, Arizona and America are carefully edging closer to normal. COVID-19 vaccinations still are hard to come by for many, but many others have had them now. Infection rates have been falling for a while.

Meanwhile, school doors are opening to students whose families have been awaiting in-person instruction for a long time. Casa Grande’s district elementary schools opened this week. The high school district is bringing students back on Monday. Other districts are in the midst of reopening plans as well. Some schools have a hybrid schedule that rotates days, and some families prefer to stay in remote learning.

Gov. Doug Ducey has ordered the reopening of elementary schools by March 15. But mandated opening for higher grades, including those in Pinal County, remains tied to COVID-19 numbers.

Some other states continue to face resistance, especially from teachers’ unions, as the public grows more impatient. This pandemic has been tough on families, student learning and just about everything. Caution and common sense still are needed, but there is no doubt that closures in some places, and not just in education, went overboard.

People will need to get their vaccine, wear masks and maintain caution. That is a key to getting past the pandemic, enjoying events again and restoring the economy.

That said, seeing students back on campus, after some earlier false starts, is something to celebrate. And all the educators and families who persevered, all the essential and “non-essential” workers who kept going in or did their jobs remotely, deserve praise. Their initiative and inventiveness is part of what makes our country great and successful. And it is getting us through COVID-19, a strange disease that many people died of while others did not even know they had it. And the vaccines that came quickly from drug companies, with the help of the federal government’s Operation Warp Speed, certainly have made a difference.

Now we need to make up for lost time in so many ways while still being careful and depending on research to prevent or minimize the next pandemic.

— Donovan Kramer Jr.

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