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Surge in COVID-19 cases should prompt officials to rethink in-person meetings

By JIM BROOKS
Nelson County Gazette

Monday, June 29, 2020 — The shutdown of the economy has been tough on everyone; local businesses have been especially hit hard, particularly those that were not deemed to be “essential” by order of Gov. Andy Beshear.

JIM BROOKS

It was tough to drive through downtown any hour of any day of the week, and to see the streets empty of shop owners and customers. Downtown looked like a Sunday afternoon every day of the week.

But we all did what we were asked to do. Stay home. Wash your hands. Sanitize shared surfaces. Social distance. Avoid crowds. And it appears that all of those precautions helped us flatten the curve.

But now we’re all tired of the precautions; businesses are finally allowed to reopen, and we’re all wanting to return to our normal day-to-day routine. I’m all for that. But from my observations, many of us seem to believe the Coronavirus no longer poses a threat.

My wife and I had lunch recently at one of our favorite Bardstown locally owned restaurants. The tables were properly spaced, the menus were disposable, service was good and done according to guidelines — with the exception of one thing: None of the employees were wearing masks.

Our meals were excellent (as usual), but I won’t eat there again anytime soon.

Mask wearing is the best way to avoid spreading or getting the virus in places where you can’t properly social distance. And frankly, in a restaurant, I want cooks and servers to wear masks.

If I was under 40 years old — an age group that’s much less susceptible to the severe effects of the Coronavirus — I probably wouldn’t wear a mask either for my own benefit. But I would wear one for no other reason than knowing that I could be the person to spread the virus to my parents, grandparents, elderly neighbors or a person I stood behind in line at the Piggly Wiggly.

But from the look of things at many of our stores, fewer than 30 percent of shoppers are wearing masks. You would think the virus is no longer the threat it once was; unfortunately, that isn’t the case. Just ask the 25 Nelson County residents who tested positive for the virus in the past 11 days.

Elected officials may say that the increase is due to more testing. I would buy into that theory 100 percent if it weren’t for my own observations of more people not wearing masks than wearing them nearly anyplace you go. In my opinion, the fact that we’re all getting out around other people more is the reason we are seeing a definite spike in COVID-19 cases.

We all want this pandemic to be over. And I recognize that people under 40 have a decreased risk of the severe effects of the virus. But unfortunately, I haven’t been under 40 for a couple of decades now, and I have a number of pre-existing conditions that make the virus particularly dangerous to me. You won’t find me out in public without a mask.

And really, since Nelson County reported its first COVID-19 patient on March 14th, what about the virus has changed? What makes it safer for us to meeting in a crowd of any sizeable number? Despite the Governor’s executive orders allowing businesses to finally reopen, the virus remains active and around us. Those of us who are most at risk remain at risk. And the simple truth is the more people we are exposed to, the greater our chances of meeting someone carrying the virus. Period.

ELECTED OFFICIALS, TAKE NOTE. Local elected officials should recognize this fact, and I respectfully suggest they rethink their plans to hold in-person meetings — if nor no other reason than to avoid exposing the members of their individual councils and boards (many of whom share the same risk factors that I do) to possible contact with those carrying or infected by the virus.

The whole purpose of having people stay home was to limit the person-to-person contact opportunities to spread the virus. With no proven treatment or vaccine on the immediate horizon, it seems to me that the responsible thing to do is to continue with virtual meetings. To return to in-person meetings creates unnecessary risk to the elected officials, news media and the public who attend those meetings.

We have the right to ignore requests to wear face masks in most instances, and I understand that. I don’t like wearing a mask either. But since the virus has already taken more than 128,000 lives in our country, I think wearing one is the best option to avoid becoming a new statistic.

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