Last weekend and Memorial Day were somber occasions. I attended the American Legion Memorial Day Ceremony where the fallen heroes of past wars were remembered. Americans who have been victims of the COVID-19 Pandemic, including tragically some World War II veterans, were also remembered.
We also tragically lost David and Dawn Head to a traffic accident Saturday afternoon. David was a Macon County Sheriff’s Office deputy. Our hearts go out to their children and family in this time of loss and mourning.
At the start of the weekend there was some optimism with the start of the governors phase two reopening plan. I visited downtown merchants on Saturday morning, and I was gratified to see all the precautions that business owners had taken to create safe shopping environments.
They were outfitted with masks and hand sanitizer stations. I heard repeatedly that wearing of masks was not just for the customers’ protection, but for employees protection too. A worker on Main Street will be in contact with a cross section of the national population. That notion was driven home to me as I rode down Main Street on Saturday afternoon and saw a vehicle with a Hawaii license plate. There were cars from New York, Indiana, Wisconsin, California and of course many from Florida, Georgia, Alabama and Louisiana. All the hotspots were much represented.
But, what really worried me was the realization that our downtown visitors, except for a few, were not socially distancing, nor wearing coverings of any kind. We had a national sample of visitors walking on our streets, eating ice cream, sitting on benches and clustering together in jubilant conversion.
In the meantime, we saw a doubling of COVID-18 cases in Macon County. For weeks we had 3 confirmed cases, and I suspect many thought we were living in a safe zone. By Friday the number had increased to around seven. This past weekend an area church had an outbreak of seven, so now at the time of this writing we have 18 cases. The Macon County Public Health Department is doing contact tracing and requiring quarantining where warranted.
We are not at the end of this spread as we had all hoped. The three W’s are still essential for us to follow. Wear a face covering, wash hands frequently, and wait in lines with six feet of spacing.
Some folks may say these protocols are an infringement of their personal freedom, and that they do have the right not to wear a face covering. My response is that in a civil society personal freedom is counterbalanced with personal responsibility. While one may believe they are exercising personal freedom by not wearing a mask, they may be jeopardizing another person’s right to safety in public places.
Does anyone have the right to freely spread a contagion that could threaten the health of others? This challenge of balancing personal freedom and public safety will continue to confront us in the coming weeks, even here in fun loving Highlands.