Towards the end of last week, a story came out where at least 30 West Virginians returned home from their vacations at Myrtle Beach and brought home an unexpected souvenir – COVID-19.

At first, due to questionable wording in some reports, it seemed like all 30 cases were in Berkeley County, which even for the state leader in COVID-19 cases, would have been quite a jump – nearly 10 percent.

But, it was 30 cases spread out amongst five counties, which included Berkeley County.

There are some people out there who are experiencing a bit of schadenfreude in that these people went on vacation, angered the pandemic and were punished by contracting the coronavirus.

In no way am I going down that road in any way, shape or fashion.

I’m glad that people are once again starting to find joy in their lives. We have to open our economy back up and allow people to make a living.

No one should feel guilty for going on vacation or doing whatever it is that brings them happiness.

Doing further damage to the economy through more shutdowns isn’t the answer. We’ve reached a point where the damage we’re doing to the economy and public health in general is worse than the damage the coronavirus is causing.

Life has to return to some form of ‘normal.’

But with that said, can we at least be smart about it?

When you find yourself in a crowded, confined area, you should wear a mask.

It’s amazing how many people out there seem to regard wearing a mask in public as some kind of infringement upon their rights or believe that not wearing a mask is some form of political protest.

On many different fronts, this virus and the country’s response to it has become entirely too political.

COVID-19 doesn’t care whether you are a conservative Republican, a liberal Democrat, or somewhere in between. It doesn’t discriminate against religion or even how much money you have in your pocket. It also doesn’t care that no one else was wearing a mask and that they all looked perfectly healthy.

I don’t care who’s wrong and who’s right. It doesn’t matter.

What does matter is how we as a society respond to this virus.

There are a couple of facts about COVID-19 that everyone already knows: It’s highly contagious and for people with weakened immune systems due to age, chronic illnesses such as diabetes and asthma, can prove deadly. Everyone knows to wash their hands frequently and keep their hands away from their face.  

The most important preventative measure is to avoid crowds and wear a mask.

There’s an asymptomatic variant of the virus, meaning that there are no symptoms and as a result, there are many people out there who have it right now and don’t even know it. These people, in effect, are carriers who could infect someone who really has a hard time dealing with it.

A lot of people out there seem to think that the mask is for your protection. It’s not. It’s for every one else’s protection. The mask the other people are wearing is for your protection. You have to wear a mask and everyone else has to wear a mask for everyone to be safe from this bug.

People are going to have to work together to help hold this bug at bay and at the same time, see their lives return to normal. Some states have made masks mandatory in public places like grocery stores, department stores and restaurants. Some merchants have signs posted that say, ‘No shirt, No shoes and No Mask, No service.’  

Other states like West Virginia, haven’t. This isn’t a knock on West Virginia. It just means that we the people are going to have to do the right thing without big brother telling us to do so.

Wouldn’t it be nice to see people caring for one another without the government intervening and using guns to make it happen?

It’s a pipe dream, of course.

That doesn’t mean you can’t take a few steps on your own to limit your exposure.

Avoid crowds – that’s how you really cut down on your chances of ever contracting this virus.

There are a couple of ways to do it: If you are going to a restaurant, try to eat outside, or if you are eating indoors, try to go during a slow period, like say 2 p.m. when most of the lunch rush is gone. Eat dinner early at 4 or 5 p.m. or later at 8 or 9 p.m. instead of 6 p.m.

The same is true with grocery stores and department stores: Go at odd times of the day.  Use the grocery pickup whenever you can. Anytime you can get your groceries and avoid even going into a store, that’s a big victory.

And more importantly, use your judgement. If you walk into a crowded store and see people aren’t wearing masks and no one’s paying attention to social distancing, get out of there as quickly as you can.  You might catch it and be perfectly fine. But why take that chance?

What if you unknowingly give it to a relative who has a hard time recovering? Do you really want that on your conscience?

It’s unlikely that those 30 people who contracted COVID-19 at Myrtle Beach are facing any major health ramifications, but they might know someone who is vulnerable. And on top of that, they’re going to have to take 14 days off from their lives to quarantine. Everyone they’ve come into contact with since returning home will now have to do the same. That seems like a major inconvenience for a lot of people.

It’s easier to avoid the situation altogether.

You have to think about everyone around you and more importantly, yourself.  

The only way we’re going to make it through this thing is through personal accountability — and a vaccine.

Griffin is the managing editor for the Spirit of Jefferson.

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