Recently, I watched a video of a protestor in Ohio berate a reporter for wearing a mask. Keep in mind, COVID-19 has killed nearly 70,000 U.S. citizens, with more than 1.1 million contracting the disease. Even with the 42 states that have or will reopen in the coming weeks, the coronavirus is still here, still dangerous, highly contagious, and will inexplicably take more lives in the coming days, weeks, and months.

The University of Washington predicts the U.S. could see nearly 140,000 deaths by early August. Some states continue to see record numbers of confirmed cases. The curve has yet to flatten. As a matter of fact, talk of “flattening the curve” has stifled. Health departments are hard pressed to test, isolate, and contract trace because acquiring test kits is challenging. Remember, test, isolate, and contract trace, was the clarion call made by federal officials not long ago as a key strategy in mitigating and ultimately containing the coronavirus.

The rhetoric has shifted from a public health commonsense approach to a reopening campaign that loosely considers public health risks. This is not to overlook people who need to work in order to eat, clothe, maintain shelter, and pay bills. It is more about those who diminish the realness of the coronavirus even to the extent of potentially contracting the disease and spreading it to others. This premature shift came after the federal government’s own conditions for reopening we abandoned. Economics is the driver. Putting economics before public health negates commonsense. The outcome is morbid.

To be clear, COVID-19 is not a hoax. It is not a partisan issue, nor should caution be dammed because we have been cooped inside for weeks. Hats are off to moms and dads who juggle homeschool, work (or no work), stress, not to mention the many who are cash strapped, or whose businesses are in jeopardy, or have closed. It has not been easy for most people. With that said, the dangers of this virus are real. Reopening does not magically make COVID-19 less viable, if anything, it is the opposite. We must be even more vigilant, more careful, and more intentional about doing all we can to keep ourselves and each other healthy.

If COVID-19 is the proverbial pot, then add these ingredients: a loosely “staged” reopen process that inherently weakens social distancing requirements; coming in contact with asymptomatic individuals (people who have the disease but display no symptoms); visiting establishments that may look clean on the surface but have areas of contamination (you can’t see the virus); community spread due to larger gatherings; and the inability to test in large numbers, then isolate, and contract trace. Mix these ingredients together and you have the perfect recipe for a second surge.

There is another aspect to this…One that is hard not to feel. It is those health care workers on the front line, who risk it all, daily, to save lives. They are the soldiers in this war. Their battle fatigues look and work differently, but they are the true warriors who deserve our best, just as they give us theirs. We owe it to them to respect the lethality of this virus. This means soberly weighing a desire to revert to pre-COVID life against the need to practice commonsense measures to mitigate a surge as the country reopens. 

As for those who spew things like, “we have immune systems to fight this virus,” or “the mask you’re wearing is scaring the American people,” please take a moment to consider how precious life is. Is wearing a mask or practicing social distancing unreasonable? Who does it hurt? Let us not forget this deadly pandemic has taken more lives than the Vietnam War – in a matter of weeks. 

I applaud the Ohio reporter for having the sense and decency to wear the mask. For the angry, misguided protestor who believes the American people are being lied to about the potency of this virus, perhaps if she asked someone who has contracted the disease and thankfully recovered, she’d realize the inconvenient truth.

For those who champion “liberate” rhetoric or who cosign with the hateful protestor berating the reporter for trying to practice commonsense measures to keep herself and others safe, my hope is this: Please stay healthy and well. Please consider the consequences of contracting this disease not only for yourself, but for the those who care about you. 

Even though the federal government said it will not extend social distancing guidelines, every individual possesses the ability to activate good, old-fashioned commonsense. There is nothing wrong with social distancing at parks, wearing a mask outside of the home, asking your stylist or barber to employ additional safety measures if necessary, or avoiding large gatherings while this pandemic continues to spread.

COVID-19, the coronavirus, the invisible enemy – whatever you call it – is in fact real. My hope is that those who defy this pandemic as a hoax will not find themselves mired by its grim realities in the ER, hooked up to ventilator. At that point, it could be too late. 

Please stay healthy and take good care.