July 3, 2020 10:14:56 AM
A couple of months ago, there was hope the COVID-19 pandemic would stall out during the heat of summer. That hasn't happened.
In fact, as the temperatures rise, so do the number of COVID-19 cases.
When officials at every level of government began lifting restrictions, they urged personal responsibility as we returned to many of our normal activities.
But Americans have failed miserably in keeping up their end of the bargain.
With the number of COVID-19 cases increasing in 41 states, officials are considering implementing, or in some cases re-implementing, certain restrictions.
The most common measure is requiring people to wear face masks.
To date, Gov. Tate Reeves has given no indication that he will issue an order requiring all citizens to wear masks in public spaces even at a time when the number of COVID-19 cases continues to increase exponentially. In the past two weeks alone, cases in the state have more than doubled (107 percent, the eighth highest rate increase in the nation).
Nationally, Thursday's 51,504 new cases is the most daily cases reported since the pandemic began. There have been 2.7 million cases reported since the beginning of March, with 128,000 deaths.
Our readership area -- Lowndes, Oktibbeha, Clay and Noxubee -- is certainly not immune to this trend. Two more people died Wednesday, one in Lowndes County and one in Oktibbeha County. We've had 55 deaths and 1,557 cases since March 11. That's an average of roughly 100 cases and almost four deaths per week.
In the regrettable absence of leadership at the state level, local officials again find themselves doing what Reeves will not do. These officials are not only within their rights to intervene, but have an obligation to do so. There is no greater responsibility for elected officials than public safety and the numbers do not lie.
Cities such as Tupelo and Oxford have already taken measures in response to the increase in cases. On Monday, Oxford extended its mask requirement through the month of July and is considering another measure that would close any business found in violation of the mask order to be closed for 24 to 48 hours. Tupelo mayor Jason Shelton issued an executive order that went into effect Monday that requires people to wear masks.
These requirements are as much about raising public awareness of the importance of wearing masks as they are about forcing people to act in a responsible manner. It's much the same here as it is with things like seat belt laws and speed limits. These measures won't end all violations, but will influence people to change their behavior.
Since the start of the pandemic, we have been faced with a cost/benefit analysis, especially in March, when we were ordered to shelter at home and many businesses were forced to close.
The economic impact of that shutdown was a big blow to the economy. Unemployment soared to levels not seen since the Great Depression. Revenue and sales plummeted as well.
Unlike those sacrifices, wearing masks has zero effect on our economy. In fact, the surest way to prevent returning to those severe restrictions is for citizens to make a serious commitment to wear masks.
We applaud local officials who have taken -- or are planning to take -- this relatively simple, painless measure to arrest the spread of COVID-19 and we urge citizens to comply.
It is, quite literally, the least we can do.
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