EDITORIAL: Malheur County risks economy, lives and schools if people don’t act now

When it comes to the coronavirus, the people of Malheur County are at a crucial junction. We must show a common resolve to tackle Covid as we would a range fire – with collective will, a single-minded determination to gain control. Otherwise, we will pay a steep price for failure.

In the past two weeks, the virus has spread with alarming speed. As of Sunday, another two dozen local people tested positive. For months, we were averaging a single positive test a day. This isn’t just a function of more tests being conducted. A higher and higher percentage of tests are coming back positive. The reasoning goes that when you test more people, you should sweep in more people who aren’t infected. Instead, roughly one out of five tests is coming back positive.

The Malheur County Court is scheduled Wednesday to impose new limits on gatherings as one step to gain control of the virus. The court should have acted quicker, convening in special session days earlier to move on the emergency. Before county commissioners could act, Gov. Kate Brown put in place a statewide restriction of indoor gatherings of 10 or more. Local action on other restrictions before we face more state orders means every soul in Malheur County now has a special duty to the public good.

Here’s the junction where you can help decide which way to turn. You can take coronavirus seriously and help slow this pandemic. Or you can shrug your shoulders and consider it all hype.

Those who selfishly brandish their “independence” by ignoring health recommendations are making matters worse. They point, almost with glee, that few have died in Malheur County. They say hospitals have few cases. Apparently, they want bodies stacked in the hallways and sick grandparents filling hospital beds before they’ll consider this a serious public health matter.

Want to understand the results of not acting? Look at Florida. Look at Texas. Look at Arizona. Those states roared back to full life, dismissing restrictions. But now, hospitals are full, their intensive care units overrun with Covid victims. Funeral homes are running out of space. And case counts soar to unimaginable levels.

We must listen to the experts. We’re not talking about doctors on cable networks. We’re talking about the people many of you trust – the doctors and health professionals here in Malheur County. They don’t care about politics. They aren’t trying to gain control of local lives. They’re trying to save lives. Listen to them. What are they telling us has to happen?

Individual acts are vital. Wear a mask. Wash your hands. Stay home if you feel sick.

Make no mistake what’s at risk here besides the health of 30,000 people. Failure to gain control now means dark times ahead.

Businesses will close, either by government order or lack of customers. People will again lose their jobs – and the paychecks that keep Malheur County humming. We risk not seeing kids back in the classroom desk, learning ABCs and social standards. We stand to lose even more events that bind us – the weddings, birthday parties and even company gatherings.

Malheur County prides itself on being independent, and many people chafe at the Democratic tilt of state government. For the moment, the state has turned to Malheur County and said: Okay, give it a try your way.

For the sake of the health and economic stability, let’s not waste the opportunity. Buckle up, Malheur County, and do what’s necessary without quibble and without hesitation. Lives depend on it. – LZ


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