Thanks to the Redlands City Council for encouraging citizens to put up Christmas lights to brighten our outlook during the dark times of the pandemic.

Who doesn’t like Christmas lights? It’s not too expensive to participate — unless you get as carried away as much as Chevy Chase’s character Clark Griswold in “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” — and driving around town to view the displays seems like a safe activity.

However, flashing lights won’t hide the grim reality of the upsurge of COVID-19 cases and deaths as the days grow shorter and the nights get colder.

The surge has prompted California Gov. Gavin Newsom to impose a 10 p.m.-to-5 a.m. curfew in 41 counties, including San Bernardino and Riverside counties. As much as we look forward to opening up the economy, this is an appropriately cautious step. We’ve known for a long time that winter could bring an increase in COVID cases. It has.

The curfew will surely impact Redlands downtown outdoor dining program on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.

Redlands is ninth in the county in the number of COVID cases with 2,573, but fourth in the number of deaths behind the much larger cities of San Bernardino, Fontana and Ontario. As of this week, 100 Redlands residents have died of COVID-19-related causes.

With a population of more than 72,000, Redlands has had 138.7 deaths per 100,000 residents. Neighboring Mentone, with a population of 9,255, has a rate of 140.5 deaths per 100,000. By that measure, Mentone and Redlands are No. 1 and No. 2.

The city of San Bernardino, with more than 218,000 residents, leads the county with 186 deaths. But its rate per 100,000 is 85.1.

The county Public Health Department has tracked 16,636 COVID-19 cases in the past month and found that 1,350 reported attending at least one large gathering. Family and friends getting together comprised 57% of the cases, the largest category.

We have long suspected that social gathering was the reason why the county and the Redlands Unified School District remain in the purple (widespread) category, which means the most stringent limitations.

We sincerely hope local residents are taking every precaution to stay safe during the holidays. We love our families and don’t want to do anything to put them at risk.

As depressing all that sounds, the promise of vaccines around the corner gives us hope. In a matter of months, this nightmare could be over.

Meanwhile, enjoy the Christmas lights.