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Chester County Press

Editorial: The Herd Mentality of the Oblivious and the Defiant

This past Saturday afternoon, the Chester County Press reporter, seeking a brief respite from the COVID world, went for a walk along a public trail and ran headlong into the COVID world.

For the past seven months, the reporter has closely followed the three golden rules specified by the Centers for Disease Control to the point where they have burned themselves into his life like ritual: Wash hands, wear mask, socially distance. Since March, the entirety of his social life has dwindled down to a few sporadic in-person gatherings with a friend or two, or been relegated to the Hollywood Squares stack of faces he regularly sees on Zoom.

Therefore, his decision to put a mask on at the public trail had nothing to do with self-advertisement that painted him as the good soldier of the pandemic. Just as he has done in the dozens of walks he has been on since March, the reporter wore his mask because it was the safe thing to do. Since March, he has accepted and worn the cloak of inconvenience.

Apparently, he was the only one on the trail who got the message.

During his two-mile trek, only one of the 18 walkers and runners the reporter encountered wore a mask and, most fruitless of all, one walker chose to rationalize his decision by placing a hand over his face when he came close to another trail user. The complete lack of responsibility on the part of the trail walkers and runners was not only reprehensible, it was an act of defiance against common sense.

Around nearly every bend in the trail, the reporter encountered another mask-less walker or runner, comfortable and protected in the bubble of their ignorance, against the backdrop of what he has learned – and what they have chosen to ignore.

He has seen a virus that has caused the deaths of 214,000 Americans co-opted by the twin agenda of politics and finance, instead of manifested as a concerted effort to devise a national emergency plan.

He has witnessed the tsunami of misinformation about coronavirus that has – for some -- become the new and accepted narrative of truth.

He has seen the United States become the COVID Capitol of the World, recording the highest number of cases and the most recorded deaths of any country, despite the fact that it represents only 4.25 percent of the world’s population.

He has seen a White House administration and a large percentage of Republican governance disrespect scientific evidence of the virus, while openly ridiculing the legitimacy of those men and women of science whose stellar research and findings continue to save lives.

From this same White House, he has seen the continued use of the term “sissification” applied to those who choose to wear masks and, perhaps worst of all, witnessed the blind arrogance of those who believe that the practice of wearing a mask is a violation of their freedoms as Americans. 

Because it is his job to know such things, the reporter had seen that morning a number that he continues to track: 370 Chester County residents have died from COVID-19.

He read that morning that the average number of new coronavirus cases reported in Pennsylvania had tripled in one month, from 570 new cases reported on Sept. 9 to 1,568 new cases reported on Oct. 9.

He continues to read about a long winter ahead that will introduce a second wave of COVID-19, one projected to be even more deadly than the first wave.

The reporter had planned to walk three miles last Saturday. As he finished his second mile, he left the trail. There would be no final lap; he had seen enough of the herd mentality of the oblivious and the defiant. He returned to his home, where he will prepare for the long winter ahead.