Louisiana has a lot going for it, from usually balmy weather — the last few days notwithstanding — to friendly people, great food and lots of tourism destinations, sports success (Who Dat!) and recreational opportunities.

But our state also, unfortunately, has a well-deserved reputation for being on the lower rungs of such things as overall health and fitness, academic success and employment opportunities.

Louisiana was next-to-last in a 2019 ranking of “States with the Best & Worst School Systems” by the financial website WalletHub, with only New Mexico ranked lower among the 50 states plus Washington D.C.

U.S. News & World Report had Louisiana in the bottom five in seven of eight categories it ranked — health care (45th), education (48th), economy (49th) and infrastructure (48th), and ranked dead last in three categories — opportunity (50th), crime and corrections (50th) and natural environment (50th). That last one particularly stings in a state touting itself as the Sportsman’s Paradise for its beauty and the opportunities for outdoors activities such as hunting and fishing. Only fiscal stability, at 43rd, was not in the bottom five in the rankings.

We’re dealing with another negative as well over the past nine-plus months — the coronavirus that’s hit Louisiana hard. The state has topped 341,000 cases, or 7,344 cases per 100,000 people in the state, and 7,833 deaths, or 168 deaths per 100,000 people.

A recent surge has seen 26,156 positive coronavirus tests in the past seven days, according to the Centers for Disease Control, likely in part because of the cooler weather but also because many people are tired of the restrictions and are interacting with their friends and neighbors more, should be a concern for everyone in the state.

COVID vaccines are being distributed around the country, Louisiana and the Teche Area included, but until enough vaccine is produced to inoculate the population, there’s one easy, if not comfortable, way to try to slow the spread of the virus.

It’s one that’s been touted for some time — wear a mask covering the mouth and nose anytime one is not home. Wear it at the store. At the game, if you are lucky enough to attend. At work when interacting with others.

It’s time to take the pandemic seriously, Louisiana. A lot of Louisianans are doing so, but others, along with many across the country, are understandably tired of being cooped up and, in many cases, underemployed or unemployed because of the pandemic that’s taken .

The COVID-19 virus has taken away a lot of things we take for granted, with state and local restrictions that prevent large gatherings at sporting events, bars and even churches. Today’s playoff game between the New Orleans Saints and Chicago Bears won’t be a sellout, as one would have seen in the past, instead seating about 3,700 fans in the Superdome (capacity 73,208).

Don’t let the sense of weariness we all feel from having our lives disrupted lead to a longer economic and social disruption.

Wear a mask. Please.

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