Is everyone paying attention now? The virus has taken off in Union County and there will be many more cases. No more magical thinking, please. We aren’t special and nothing will protect us from COVID-19 except our own efforts to keep this thing in check. If we can’t do that, we will all be sorry.

The failure to follow state guidelines by a local church has caused enormous damage to public health and to our economy. As the number of victims rises, the willingness of people to visit or even to stop in town while passing through will be sorely tested.

A concern for local businesses and the jobs they provide seems to have led our county commissioners to consider insurrection rather than leading by example. That was a mistake. Taking up arms isn’t what this is about and violating open-meeting rules is serious.

As for the church leaders, I’m trying hard to find the Christian values in a strategy that seems to have gone out of its way to ignore every one of the Oregon Health Authority recommendations. Where is the love and concern in that attitude? There were no masks and lots of very close contact. There was also singing, chanting, and face-to-face talk. Those are all fine things except when they can lead to sickness and even death. That’s exactly what’s happened in other cities. We will not beat this by pretending we are immune to the pandemic and by disregarding the threat to our fellow community members. It isn’t about judging the state either. That’s not the way it works.

Here’s the science so far. The disease is quite contagious and many can get infected. The virus zombies if you like, and 80% can show little to no symptoms. The remaining 20% will be affected to one degree or another, 15% may need hospitalization, while 5% will be severely impacted and need intensive care. Between 1% and 2% will die.

That’s a small percentage, but if hundreds of people get the virus that could mean dozens of deaths. Those who recover can show serious effects that last for months and perhaps years. Not enough time has passed to understand all the implications.

Everyone should be wearing masks and practicing social distancing so that the 8 out of 10 who are zombies don’t infect others. That’s the right thing to do if we really care about our fellow citizens.

Recovery for our local economy is now an even bigger issue. There is an answer to this and it’s in Washington. The Federal Reserve has started up the printing press. Before the pandemic collapsed the economy, corporations had built mountains of debt because interest rates were so low and banks were only too happy to let them dig those holes.

Now those businesses and their lenders are in big trouble, so the Fed has promised the borrowers and bankers that it will cover all the bad gambling debts. That’s why the stock market keeps chugging along. There’s more free money on the way.

Congress must do the same for the people who actually keep this country moving: the small businesses, the workers, local and state governments and the nonprofit organizations that provide support. That’s the only way we’re going to get out of this. The sooner we all buy in, the sooner it will happen. We have senators and representatives and those congressional members will be the difference makers as we move further into this thing.

There is no other way now that the virus has found us. Our county government should be in touch with those people. Have they done that? If not, the sooner the better.

One researcher used a baseball analogy to try to catch people’s attention. He said we’re only in the second inning of this thing. Union County now has a strike against it. It’s time to prepare for the next pitch and to make sure the umpires are watching.

About the Author

Norm Cimon of La Grande is a member of Oregon Rural Action, a nonprofit, but his column only represents his opinion.

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