If you’ve let your guard down in terms of combating COVID-19, it’s time to re-install said guard.

Consider these two developments:

• Two cases of the new coronavirus variant from the United Kingdom have hit Kentucky, according to Gov. Andy Beshear in his Tuesday briefing.

• An infectious disease expert said Tuesday he thinks the “darkest weeks” are in the near future.

As for the coronavirus strain from U.K., Beshear did not divulge any details regarding the commonwealth’s residents, such as location or gender. The strain itself is moving rapidly. Multiple media outlets have reported that it’s more contagious, however it may not be as severe — or lethal.

Another piece of good news is it appears both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines will protect people against the novel variant, known as B.1.1.7. According to The Courier-Journal, eight states and 33 countries have identified the new variant.

An additional variant popping up in Brazil has not made its way to the United States.

Michael Osterholm, the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, told CNN’s Anderson Cooper he worries “the next six to 14 weeks could be the darkest weeks of the pandemic.”

Osterholm referenced the new variant, saying if it takes off in North America like it’s permeated throughout Europe, “I think we could be seeing numbers much, much higher than we’ve had to date.”

More than one-fourth of the world’s cases are right here in the United States — 25.4 million of the 100 million.

While northeastern Kentucky case numbers aren’t nearly as consistently high as they were following the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, they’re still not remotely where we’d like to see them.

We can’t emphasize enough to continue to wear your masks, keep your distance and wash your hands. And, perhaps most of all, stay informed, friends.

While it’s not advisable to let worry or fear consume us, we must make a concerted effort to be smart and vigilant.

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