By David Peck, publisher, Lovell Chronicle
LOVELL — I’m trying to understand the mindset of some folks who absolutely refuse to wear facemasks or take other protective measures during the coronavirus pandemic, or who, at the very least, strongly resist – and openly complain about – health orders to do so.
I realize that we have it good in Wyoming and in Big Horn County specifically when it comes to the virus.
As of this writing there have been only 29 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in our county, and fortunately no deaths. Wyoming had only 1,830 confirmed cases as of Wednesday, with 25 deaths.
The relatively low numbers appear to have given many people a false sense of security and have led to outright denial of the problem.
The attitude of disbelief regarding the pandemic is accompanied by a kind of obstinate stand that can be summed up as “they’re not going to tell me what to do!”
I know where people are coming from. Wyoming is a fiercely independent state made up of strong-willed people who don’t like people telling them how to live their lives. I get it.
But since when does a spirit of independence mean not caring about your fellowman? COVID-19 is easily spread and can be deadly to the elderly or people with health issues.
It can leave lasting health conditions even if survived. The virus has claimed at least 618,000 lives worldwide as of Wednesday and the death toll is approaching 145,000 in the United States.
This is serious – and sad. But some people simply shrug their shoulders.
Gov. Mark Gordon expressed frustration last week during a news conference about what he called a “cavalier” and “irresponsible” attitude among some people regarding COVID-19 and its spread. He said he is sick and tired of receiving emails like one that said, “Well these people were going to die anyway, they’re just dying earlier.”
What a terrible thing to say.
Another email insinuated that people who die of COVID-19 are lucky because they’re now “meeting the Lord.”
The governor had a message for those who would use that attitude as an excuse for not wearing a mask or taking other measures: “Assisting you meeting the Lord isn’t part of the deal,” he said.
I believe our governor has been very reasonable during the pandemic. He never issued a stay-at-home order or a mandatory facemask order. He has worked carefully with state and local health officials and implemented a system of variances so that state health orders can be adapted to local conditions.
Some believe he hasn’t gone far enough, and others feel he has gone overboard, so he‘s probably right where he ought to be.
It all boils down to one thing: respect. Do we respect the rights of other citizens to not be infected by someone with a devil-may-care attitude? Is it all about me, me, me, or are we willing to endure some discomfort now in order to prevent greater pain later?
The COVID-19 pandemic has been horrible for our economy and disruptive to our daily lives, there’s no doubt about it. But the worst thing we can do is decide to “stick it to the man” and throw caution to the wind when it comes to health measures.
If you want to see schools locked down and a full school year of learning from home, the end of sports as we know it, more businesses closing and bars, restaurants, churches and more shuttered for months, then by all means, flaunt your ‘”independence” and scream your defiance in the face of the people you just know are out to ruin your life and usurp your rights.
A far better plan would be to do the very best we can to follow the heath guidelines like wearing a mask in public if social distancing isn’t possible and avoiding group gatherings in close quarters.
If we can just do those simple things plus frequent hand washing and surface cleaning, we can hold the coronavirus at bay until a vaccine is developed and widely distributed. It’s not like we have to wear masks 24/7, just under certain circumstances.
As the late LDS Church apostle Boyd K. Packer once stated, “Our whole social order could self-destruct over the obsession with freedom disconnected from responsibility, where choice is imagined to be somehow independent of consequences.”
Wise words. Let’s stick together and do what’s right as best we can, folks.