Union County had a second resident die because of COVID-19, and the county’s cases continue to trickle up, reaching 368 Friday. The Oregon Health Authority on Thursday reported a record number of new cases statewide, 389, with 55 of those coming from neighboring Umatilla County.

Yet you can walk into local stores and some drinking establishments and still see people not wearing a mask or other facial coverings.

The number of those not wearing a mask are dwindling, to be sure, and they tend now to stick out in the supermarket. Yet there they are.

Others seem oblivious to social distancing, no matter how many floor markings show us how to stay 6 feet apart.

The majority of Union County residents appear to take the threat of the virus seriously. We have received plenty of letters and social media comments from locals who advocate for wearing a mask not necessarily out of concern for themselves but out of concern for others.

One man recently expressed his frustration with another customer at the local Oregon Driver & Motor Vehicle Services office. He followed health regulations only to see another customer holding a mask and telling office staff she would not wear it in spite of the notice on the door requiring its use.

He said because one person refused to wear a mask, he now did not feel safe enough to attend is father’s birthday. He was so frustrated he wanted to out the customer in a letter to the editor.

Defiance and rugged individualism are defining characteristics of the American character. But so are compassion and dedication to community. Not covering your face in the midst of a pandemic that shows no signs of slowing is not an assertion of that defiance but of ego. It’s not rugged individualism, it’s “me first.”

As others have pointed out, the virus does not discriminate. Anyone can catch it and spread it. To borrow from Chuck Palahniuk’s novel “Fight Club,” “You are not special. You’re not a beautiful and unique snowflake,” at least when it comes to the virus and masks.

Fighting this enemy takes all of us. The excuses for not covering your face are weak at best. Masking up in public spaces is no longer optional, and not because the government has told you so.

Wearing a mask in public is simply the right thing to do. That also is a defining facet of the American character.

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