It would appear the general public has taken matters into its own hands. I watch and read the news just like anyone else, and I have been fortunate enough to be allowed to contribute some of it. Somewhere between and around pop culture and science fiction references, wedged in under movie quotes and old adages, I like to think that I provide some useful information. But nowhere in the news I have read or contributed was there any sounding of the “all clear” siren.

No, there hasn’t been a single qualified source indicating to us that the pandemic has washed over us and out to sea. What I have heard and read, however, are numerous social media posts and voiced opinions that the COVID-19 pandemic was something either not as bad as the media made it out to be, a political stunt somehow staged by one party to make political opponents look bad, or a biological attack from a certain foreign power. The list goes on, more fanciful and bizarre, but you get the idea.

The trouble with these theories from people who aren’t truly qualified to give advice on the subject is that said advice doesn’t hold water. Real people — in staggering numbers — have died in what some have labeled a hoax. The foreign power in question has reported a horrific number of deaths, so if it were an “attack” then the attack was self-defeating from the beginning. And if one political party was able to influence or coerce the entire world to help discredit a political rival, then the power it already controls would indicate the pointlessness of that action.

Still, theories persist from a wide variety of sources; and some of those theories are even plausible, given the right circumstances. One reason for this is the three-word mantra the scientific community has been chanting as a warning to avoid greater losses: “We don’t know.” This is as honest, straightforward an answer as we can hope to expect, especially when it is the truth. It doesn’t mean that the scientific community is never going to — or can’t — figure it out, just that they haven’t yet. They are working around the clock in laboratories across the globe, but they just aren’t there yet. And because this weakens their credibility, because they can’t give us the perfect answer before our bridge game on Thursday, then many people have decided that health professionals are lying to us.

Now, if you think someone is lying to you about one thing, you have the tendency to just ignore everything they say. And if you think it’s a lie, and someone is strongly suggesting (or forcing) you to do it anyway, well you are just not going to do it. This is so true that even if you hadn’t planned to do something, you certainly will after being told you can’t. This is doubled or tripled if the thing in question is unpleasant. And these mechanics of impatience and distrust, bolted together with unpleasantness, is how safety guidelines become politicized; it’s how facemasks become slogans and social distancing becomes a Constitutional threat.

Opening up the economy is a good idea. In fact, we have been running on a skeleton crew for so long we have to open up the economy. We must start making money, because simply printing it will only last so long. But it is still imperative that we do it cautiously and safely. It is possible you could walk through the jungle and not get eaten by a lion — if you never encountered a lion that was hungry, felt threatened, or was simply bored. And the chances of accomplishing this feat are reduced when we thrash about blindly with no regard to safety — and yes, there will probably be someone singing “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” hoping it’s true.

I have, like everyone else, needed to go out for necessities. In the beginning of the stages of reopening, most people were wearing masks and keeping a 6-foot distance. Then there was a reduction of masks, then it dropped to about a 50/50 split between those wearing masks and those not. The distance began to shrink, and the numbers of mask to no masks continued to drop. Now that ratio is around 30/70 in most places. And finally, today, I was in a grocery store with about two dozen other people and there was only one older gentleman and myself (OK, two old guys) wearing masks. There were, however, two other masks there. I found them laying in the parking lot, close to the door, as though the former wearers had torn them off in the final outrage at repression.

So, I guess it’s like the childhood game at this point, with us yelling to COVID-19 “Ready or not, here we come!” But it isn’t a game, and the lion isn’t sleeping tonight. It seems as though most people think it’s over, and I hope they are right. If not, well, me and the other old guy will probably get eaten too. Funny thing though, I’m not wearing a mask to keep me safe. I’m wearing it to try to prevent everyone else from getting sick. And the less people who do that, the more chance there is that everyone will.

Reach CHARLES ROMANS at cromans@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2655.

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