When it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic, we got it wrong

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The numbers are alarming. And they don’t lie. When it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic, we got it wrong.

We sat at bars inches from our friends without concern. We went to rallies and protests. We splashed at the beach, shopped without masks and ignored the warnings.

We stopped washing our hands and listening to the guidelines. We got arrogant and reckless.

We let COVID-19 get out of control. Again.

The governor, county and city officials were correct to take measured steps to reopen our economy. There is no real recovery if there’s nothing left to come back to.

They asked us to be smart. Stay six feet apart. Avoid large crowds.

What did we do? We crammed into bars. We coughed without covering our mouths. We didn’t stay home when he had a cough, sore throat or the sniffles.

We forced government officials to pull back the reigns, closing bars again and threatening a return to other Phase I protocols. Fitness centers and gymnasiums can stay open – for now. So are restaurants, but only at 50% occupancy.

We’ve taken one step up and three steps back. Now we’re on the verge of losing everything.

And it’s our fault. I’m guilty of contributing to the spike by not following reasonable precautions. I vow to do my part.

We thought things were getting under control. We were told the curve of infections was flattening out. Based on an outlook based on optimism and dependent on self-responsibility, the numbers of positive cases and deaths were declining.

In Clay County, there were 390 positive cases reported between March and May 31. As of last Tuesday, there have been 292 cases, including 156 since June 24.

It’s true the rising number of positive cases coincide with the increase of testing. What’s concerning is the percentage of positive cases has increased while the median age of those with the disease has dropped. The percentage should have dropped.

Until the coronavirus completely goes away, the only acceptable number should be zero.

It’s human nature, especially in the United States, to be free-thinking. We don’t respond well when someone else tells us what’s best for our own well-being.

The American spirit assumes independence, but it must be overlaid with intelligence.

Hopefully we all learned our lesson this time around. Our economy already is fragile. Small businesses already are either too far damaged or clinging to life. Another closure would be devastating.

The new numbers show an alarming infection rate among younger people. I’m from a generation who didn’t believe in wearing seatbelts and believed gravy was a condiment.

Now we know better.

“The community transmission is being driven by that 18 to 35-year-old group,” Gov. Ron DeSantis said. “For those who may be in the low risk groups, understanding that it may be circulating among some of your friends. You have a responsibility to be careful.”

So, for the younger crowd, do was we say, not as we did.

The overwhelming majority of the younger infections are asymptomatic.

Because we forgot the things learned ahead of Phase 1, DeSantis said he’s putting Phase 3 of the recovery on the back burner. For now, he said he’s not apt to issue the mandatory order for the use of masks in public. He apparently still has faith residents will do the right thing.

“They’re going to have to figure out how they’re going to use the long arm of the law to enforce it or not," DeSantis said. “We’re going to continue to put out the messaging, we're going to continue to put out the guidance, and we’re going to trust people to make good decisions.”

We’ve been reminded of the guidelines every day – wash your hands, avoid large crowds, wear a mask, maintain social distancing and if you don’t feel well, stay home.

This time we need to follow them. I know I will.

Or lives – and our livelihoods – depend on it.

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