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Editorial: COVID-19 threat has not gone away

Editorial Board • Jun 29, 2020 at 10:30 PM

In recent days we have witnessed two events that reinforce the glaring fact that many — far, far too many — people continue to ignore the presence and continued threat of COVID-19.

As evidenced by the spiking numbers in Florida, Texas and Arizona where an overwhelming number of the new cases can be traced to crowded bars, concert events and the like, social distancing is being shrugged off with dire consequences.

Locally, we have been disturbed as some of us attended a service where just three people were seen wearing masks. To make that more disturbing, people in attendance sat should-to-shoulder in the chapel, and there was the fact that well more than half of the attendees would be placed in the 65-and-older high-risk category.

It was an uncomfortable, uneasy setting, to say the least.

In another instance, one of our reporters covered an indoors meeting of 40 to 50 people. Three people, our reporter included, wore a mask. Just three. And again, the 6-foot physical distance guideline was ignored.

As Tennessee and other states have relaxed lockdown and quarantine guidelines, people have grown more comfortable with larger, concentrated gatherings, including some restaurants, church services, civic club luncheons, public meetings and funerals.

For the time being at least, COVID-19 appears to be a long-term problem requiring us to adapt.

But let’s be blunt here: Are large gatherings worth risking the lives of dozens of others? Instances are well-documented, for example, from the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic when a funeral was ground zero for an outbreak cluster. Why risk the health and lives of the survivors and friends? That’s not cruel nor mean-spirited to ask. It’s genuine concern for the living.

Tennessee’s mandate for virtual government meetings expires at the end of the month. Sadly, it doesn’t appear that Gov. Bill Lee will do the common-sense thing and extend the mandate.

But while the state may not do the right thing, that doesn’t mean folks in Northeast Tennessee can’t be responsible and continue virtual meetings for at least a couple more months. We’ve seen no glaring issues with the meetings since mid-March, so why pack folks into a commission meeting space when the threat of COVID-19 exposure remains a real concern and threat?

We encourage every group — government or not — to continue virtual meetings into the foreseeable future. If that’s not possible, groups should mandate that every participant and attendee wear a mask and that no more people be allowed to attend than can be accommodated under social distancing guidelines.

The same goes for funerals. One funeral need not result in 10 more.

COVID-19 has proven to be non-discriminatory. While it is believed that older populations and those with compromised immune systems are more susceptible to contracting the disease, recent spikes have been largely in younger populations who tend to congregate in crowds and have a more cavalier it-won’t-happen-to-me attitude. Too many are learning the hard way that nobody’s COVID-19 proof.

Be smart.

Be safe.

Keep your distance.

Wear your mask.

If you have no respect for yourself, have some respect for your fellow man.

The sooner common sense becomes more common, the sooner we get to return to some semblance of normalcy. But right now, that sadly doesn’t even feel like a possibility.

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