Editorial Cartoon

As we treat aspects of the current COVID-19 response with skepticism, it’s not improper that we also do so with caution.

Over the weekend, approximately 1,000 people gathered at the Capitol in Frankfort to air their grievances over continued government-ordered shutdowns of businesses. And, whether you agree with the wisdom of taking that action, it was the exercise of a freedom that is central to our nation — the freedom to assemble to encourage political change.

These people who gathered in Frankfort have numerous concerns, but some of them center on the looming economic impacts of the response to COVID-19. There are, simply put, some businesses which will not survive continued shutdowns or limitation of services. Some have already folded.

While COVID-19 is currently the greatest challenge we face, the economic impacts of all this are the second challenge and will likely be more longer-lasting and, in some ways more difficult, to navigate.

That’s frightening. And, unfortunately, fear often drives us to make bad decisions.

Gov. Andy Beshear, last week, announced the first steps toward reopening Kentucky’s economy, steps which will result in numerous businesses that have been closed for weeks now reopening their doors, albeit under completely different operating guidelines.

These limitations will present challenges these businesses have never imagined, just as few of the owners ever imagined their businesses would shutter as a result of government orders. As a result, we’re entering a new way of operation for which there are no experts, no basis for comparison and no precedence.

Are we doing the right thing? We honestly don’t know. Whether you believe the government is acting properly or overreaching tends to be a function of what motivations you see as the underlying basis for government intervention.

The reality is that both outlooks are correct, because, unfortunately, the motives under which individuals in our government are acting are a mixed bag. Some have self-serving motives, while others may have motives which take into account the betterment of their fellow man. Unfortunately in this situation, those with divergent motives may come to the same conclusions, simply due to the nature of how confusing all this is.

What that means is that our next steps as a society, and as individuals, must be taken cautiously and with careful consideration.

There are a few who deny the reality of COVID-19, but that’s not wise. There is a disease moving through our world and our communities about which we know little and which can lead to extremely bad outcomes for some. How deadly it is remains unclear and how we will eventually beat this disease remains a topic for speculation.

What we do know is that, as we reopen our economy and society, we’re swimming upstream. One of the benchmarks of whether we do that successfully will be the number of confirmed cases of this disease we see as we go forward.

We know, however, that we failed early on in the area of testing and identification of this virus. Now that we’re catching up on testing and begin testing asymptomatic people, the number of cases of the disease will rise. So it will be difficult to see whether we’re doing this the right way.

What we can do to counter that, however, is to take steps as individuals — to take personal responsibility, in other words — to counter the spread of the disease. Whether you agree with the government actions in regard to businesses, it’s possible to take some of the steps put forward as ways to stem this disease, the most key among these is simply wearing a mask in public. It’s a basic principle of disease prevention that has been put into practice for generations among cultures overseas, even outside of a large-scale pandemic such as COVID-19.

It doesn’t prevent you from catching the disease. What it does is help reduce the chances of you spreading the disease, which you may not know you have, to others through coughing, sneezing, laughing or simply breathing. In order for it to work, however, a large number of people have to do it in enclosed public spaces.

Why there would be pushback on that, when it could allow us to begin reopening in greater measure, is not quite  understandable, other than it is symbolic to refuse to wear one. Exercising this freedom is within your rights, but, one thing we must consider that, if in the expression of our own freedom we infringe upon the freedoms of another, then it’s not freedom.

Wearing a mask and taking other social distancing measures in public help reduce the spread of COVID-19. That’s elementary-level disease prevention and the more we take the personally responsible action to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, the less the government will have an excuse to act to do so. If you truly want to reduce the government’s role in the current crisis, then you have to see your actions matter.

Wearing a mask and taking steps to reduce face-to-face contact with others are minimally invasive ways of helping to curb this crisis.

Freedom is an important cornerstone of our nation. However, the foundation upon which it is laid is personal responsibility, upon those with the right to exercise those freedoms making personal choices which benefit all, even when it’s uncomfortable or tough.

That’s what has made our nation strong in the past, and also what will allow us to be strong in the future.

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