Similar images rolled in from around the country on early news programs Monday morning: Large crowds gathered on beaches, in bars and at various events, with few masks being worn and little social distancing going on.
It’s like someone stood up and said, “The coronavirus that put everyday life on hold for months is over.”
Just like that, magically, because summer has rolled around and, more specifically, because people are just tired of it.
But reputable medical experts know better. Those experts, on all levels, are advising caution and warning of a second wave that could potentially be more severe than the first.
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top medical expert, has been warning that going about business as was usual pre-epidemic could “trigger an outbreak that you can’t control.”
This first-in-most-people’s-lifetime pandemic is a complex and multilayered creature. It’s confounding the global medical community, and it’s forcing those of us in the United States — from our legislators down to each and every individual — to think about things like privacy and individual rights and just how deeply we want the government to stick its nose in our business.
It’s forcing us to weigh individual rights against personal responsibility, what feels good to us against what might be best for the common good.
No matter who agrees or doesn’t, there’s no stopping the reopening of the American economy. Moderate and regularly diminishing restrictions aside, that ship has sailed and probably couldn’t be called back to port even if anyone wanted it to be.
Although businesses can set their own requirements for people wanting to patronize them, no one can legally compel anyone to wear masks in public or to abide by the 20-second hand-washing guideline or douse you in hand sanitizer at the door. Regulations about social distancing still stand, but enforcement of them is arbitrary, vague and nearly impossible.
Individual freedoms and the right to choose — under the “life, liberty and pursuit of happiness” umbrella — are the foundation of who we are as Americans.
As the country reopens, the choice to use common sense and to follow the safety guidelines put forth by medical experts isn’t a matter of law. It’s a matter of choice. Your choice. Choose wisely.
• Margaret Battistelli Gardner