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People like 69-year-old Yakima retiree Susan Abel have been helping keep Yakima County in Phase 3 by wearing face coverings to protect themselves and others from the spread of COVID-19. (Yakima Herald-Republic file.)

We hear it all the time:

  • “Shop local.”
  • “Support your community.”
  • “Buy into (your town’s name goes here).”

And after a tragedy or a natural disaster, the messages are even more urgent and poignant: “We stand united” or “We are (fill-in-the-town) strong.”

They’re T-shirt pep talks that rally us to a higher cause, line us up behind something that’s bigger than our individual aims when a community is tested.

This is one of those moments.

Yakima County caught a huge economic break last week when Gov. Jay Inslee eased the rules, which allowed us to remain in Phase 3 of the state’s pandemic recovery plan.

Under the state’s health requirements, counties have had to keep their COVID-19 case rate under 200 people per 100,000 population for 14 straight days and maintain a COVID-19 hospital admission rate of less than five per 100,000 for seven consecutive days.

Yakima County’s hospital admission rate was down to 3.9 per 100,000; however, we were missing the new-case rate, recording 250.2 per 100,000.

But Gov. Inslee, encouraged by Washington’s brisk vaccination rates, is letting Yakima stay in Phase 3 rather than forcing the county back to Phase 2. With more people getting their shots, meeting one of the two metrics is enough for the moment, the governor has decided.

This is a financial lifesaver for a lot of people in our county. Though safety restrictions remain in place, it’s allowed us to return to sporting events, indoor restaurant dining, gyms and theaters. In short, we’ve all been able to start living a little more normally lately.

Health officials will continue to monitor every county’s progress, and on May 3, we’ll find out our how we’re doing and what our status will be.

That’s where all those T-shirt slogans come in.

Like everywhere else in the state, Yakima’s progress is the result of so many of us getting vaccinated, wearing masks and following the mildly inconvenient social-distancing measures we’re all sick of hearing about.

The fact is, though, that those measures work.

So if you want to support your local businesses, stand up for your community and be strong for your neighbors, friends and family, this is the time. The last thing Yakima County needs is to be sent back to Phase 2 and have to give up the gains we’ve made.

Be selfless. Be courteous.

Keep your mask handy for a little longer, keep your distance around others when you’re out in public and don’t blame the wait staff or the sales clerks if they ask you to follow some basic precautions that they’re stuck having to enforce.

It’s how we can all show our community spirit.