‘Give me liberty or give me COVID-19!’ doesn’t have quite the same ring

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The slide shown by the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force last week that singled out South County as a coronavirus hotspot.

By Gloria Lloyd, News Editor

South County has been singled out this month as a coronavirus hotspot by the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force, at the same time schools are attempting to open.

It’s a shame that five months into the pandemic, when it seemed we had indeed flattened the curve, that COVID-19 cases have spiked just as children were supposed to return to some semblance of normalcy with school.

In the wake of record highs for numbers in every South County ZIP code, every South County public school district has opted to go all-virtual for the fall, except for Lindbergh Schools, which was set to start with in-person school for K-3 students and all-virtual for 4-12.

But while there has been much blame heaped on the school districts, we agree with Mehlville Superintendent Chris Gaines, who said at the time the school board voted that the blame does not fall on the school district.

“In order to get back to school, people have got to stop congregating in groups, and they’ve got to wear masks, and they’ve got to wash their hands,” Gaines said.

It’s something local and national officials have been saying since at least May, and a mask mandate has been in effect in St. Louis County since July 3. The county strengthened the mandate as of Monday, with businesses now required to turn away customers who aren’t wearing masks — previously, it was optional. We support this move 100 percent.

Life simply won’t return to normal for any of us until we all wear our masks, stay away from large groups and wash our hands. By not continuing to do these things after the stay-at-home order lifted, we in St. Louis have squandered the gains we made with that full shutdown.

Wearing a mask is common sense, not political. Of course County Executive Sam Page is wearing a mask, but so is Councilman Ernie Trakas, so is Dr. Gaines, so is fire Chief Brian Hendricks.

Why has it become a rallying cry and point of pride for some not to wear masks, which not only endangers themselves but also endangers others in the community, including some of our most vulnerable — the elderly and those with compromised immune systems? We’re not entirely sure, and we don’t believe this is what Patrick Henry had in mind when he said, “Give me liberty or give me death.” We understand the instinct to not automatically do whatever your government says, but in this case, lives are at stake and it’s really not that much of a sacrifice to wear a mask when you’re around other people.

My brother was in a gas station wearing a mask recently when a man who was not wearing one stopped him and said, “Isn’t that uncomfortable?”

Without missing a beat, my brother — a war veteran — said, “Living in a foxhole for 24 hours a day for days on end in a gas mask while trying to get some sleep is uncomfortable. This is nothing.”

I can’t disagree. Wear your mask. Let’s get through this, together and alive.