EDITORIAL: Stay the course, stay home and Malheur County will get out of this

The playground equipment at Wadleigh Park in Vale is taped off to stem the spread of contamination. (Yadira Lopez/The Enterprise)

The grumbling about staying home and avoiding groups was to be expected. In a rural area such as Malheur County, personal contact is keenly important. Yet, despite the disruption, it appears that the community is saving lives and sparing our medical professionals by observing state restrictions.

We need to keep it up – and do even better.

We get it. People are cooped up at home. You’re probably spending more “quality time” than customary with your family. Many of you can’t go to work either because there is no job or it’s required to work at home. Taking a trip to a friend’s barbecue in the next county is frowned upon.

As a community, we’re an independent bunch. We don’t much care for others telling us what to do. And you see more of that trait emerging on social media, as people vent about Gov. Kate Brown’s orders, as if she personally picked their name out of a phone book to harass.

But numbers available to all of us don’t lie. Oregon, and Malheur County, so far are dodging the worst of COVID-19. This respiratory virus is spread largely by person-to-person contact, so it’s sensible that fewer contacts, fewer infections. No one – no one – should take away a message that the disease was never as bad as federal and state authorities projected. That’s the kind of “takeaway” that will get people killed.

The latest projections from the state show that by mid-May, Oregon could record about 20,000 people infected. Take the brakes off social engagement? That figure climbs instead to 60,000. Consider the cost of that. Thousands of people quarantined at home, unable to do anything but chat online and watch old movies. Hundreds more so severely stricken that they head to the hospital, where the most severe infections will take a month to treat. Every COVID-19 patient that goes into Saint Alphonsus Medical Center in Ontario puts an entire medical community at risk – doctors, nurses, CNAs and other staff.

You may feel healthy as the proverbial horse, but remember that COVID-19 is a sneaky virus. People can be infected, show no signs of being ill, and blithely spread the disease to those less able to handle the infection. Malheur County health officials are getting reports of people ignoring the state orders. Why? To get a haircut? To touch up that coloring? To have a party with friends and neighbors?

Really? How life-saving is any of that? In fact, such behavior simply puts more and more people in the community at risk.

None of this is fun for anybody. There isn’t a soul in Malheur County who isn’t affected. Yet there is no way to cap the suffering without all of us sticking with “stay home” and social distancing. Every person who ventures into a store or a restaurant to order takeout without wearing a mask is advertising their individuality – and their ignorance. They are saying they care about themselves, no one else.

Let’s not become infamous for triggering a mini-New York City rampage of the virus by being country tough and ignoring the rules. This is the time for each of us to show our mindfulness of community well-being. Obey the rules, nudge by tone and comment those who don’t, and demonstrate with masks and elbow bumps that you’re one of those in Malheur County who wants this to end sooner than later. – LZ