Few of us, me included, have taken this coronavirus outbreak as seriously as we should.
Even as health officials in Wisconsin and nationally issued dire warnings, bars and restaurants remained busy last weekend. We kept to our familiar and comfortable routines, falsely secure in our expectation that remote places like the Bay were isolated and safe.
Thursday’s news that one of us tested positive and perhaps infected scores of others before realizing she was sick shocked us back to reality.
Lines of customers stretched around local pharmacies Thursday as residents rushed to stock up on medicine. Grocers, already overwhelmed, saw another rush on bread, eggs and other staples. And everyone seemed to have a somewhat dazed look about them — how could this happen here?
But it did, and now it is up to us — every single one of us — to do our part to ensure the virus doesn’t spread.
When I asked Bayfield County Health Officer Sara Wartman Thursday about her worries that people still don’t take this seriously enough, she could only pause and sigh.
“That is the concern because if you look at the Wisconsin map, you see all the communities that have had COVID-19 and you would say, ‘Oh, there’s nothing north of Highway 8, we have nothing to worry about. But we do.’”
There remain some truly frightening elements of our community who like to take to social media and give their own medical advice.
They are wrong.
So too wrong are those who are calling out the student who tested positive — naming her, shaming her and blaming her.
Let’s be abundantly clear about this: Those who are shaming her for acting as if she weren’t infected before she had symptoms were doing the exact same thing at the exact same time. We all were going about our lives as normal, maybe washing our hands a little more than usual or spraying ourselves with sanitizer, even as we rushed about hoarding toilet paper.
If this student hadn’t brought COVID-19 to our community, it would have been someone else. In fact, it may already be someone else. We just don’t know yet.
And that’s why it’s now on all of us to keep one another safe. None of us knows better than the epidemiologists who for weeks now have been saying the same thing: Stay home.
“Some people see the statistics and say, ‘Hey, I’m young. I probably won’t be affected by this,’” Wartman said. “They need to consider the impact to others in the community. It’s not about one person. It’s about the health of our whole community.”
It’s time for us to take care of one another.
Peter J. Wasson is managing editor of the Ashland Daily Press.