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Coronavirus ‘ain’t over till it’s over’

The literature created by Yankee catcher Yogi Bera is more correct today than at any time in our national experience.

While many North Dakotans are behaving as though the pandemic is over and it is safe to romp about without safeguards, it “ain’t over till it’s over.” This virus is still haunting the state, killing the reckless (or their older relatives) for disregarding social distancing, hand washing and masks.

The virus spreaders argue that they have a constitutional right to infect other people and risk the lives of everyone they encounter. If the truth be known, all rights can be curtailed for the common good. In any case, no one has the moral right to inflict lethal harm on others.

Americans, especially North Dakotans, are an impatient lot who will take every short cut to speed up life. Fast-food restaurants have become prosperous because of this gravitation toward speed. If the computer is a nanosecond slow, cursing augments the scene. Failure to restrain impatience is killing people all across the country.

There is no question that the pandemic is destroying small business. Economists from the University of Illinois, Harvard Business School and the University of Chicago are estimating that we have already permanently lost over 100,000 small businesses in the pandemic. Carelessness will take more.

It is not in North Dakota’s political culture to let the government require social distancing, hand washing or wearing a mask. Groomed during the rugged pioneer days when nothing happened unless you did it yourself, we cemented individualism into our culture. We are rugged individualists

Because of this attitude, at least half of the state’s population is circulating freely in the box stores and other retail and service businesses without safeguards. No government is going to tell them what to do.

We don’t know enough about this virus to be treating it like the neighbor’s dog. It’s a moving target that is running ahead of vaccine trials now being performed by dozens of laboratories in as many countries.

(Wouldn’t it be embarrassing if China found a vaccine first? What a bargaining chip they would have.)

Let alone our ignorance over the long lasting health problems for those who have had the illness, the virus is an unpredictable danger because it is mutating. And if it is already mutating in these early stages, we have no way of knowing how new strains will speed up the spread of the virus.

According to Egon Ozer at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, reporting in the Washington Post, the virus is mutating again and again.

The change is significant because it is occurring in the part of the genome that makes it possible for the coronavirus to enter human cells “the way a burglar picks a lock.”

According to the Post report, four laboratory experiments point to a virus that will be more infectious than the present one. The future may be full of changing mutations that will leave the vaccine makers helpless.

Actually, there is no end in sight. Everything about this pandemic is in motion, suggesting that we all need to act on the conservative side until we know more.

The virus is no case of measles. It is a rule of nature that human beings get but one life. If we are playing the virus for a fool, we can end up out in eternity repenting for throwing away the most valuable gift we ever had.

Even worse, we may be repenting for killing the innocent people who had to care for us.

Lloyd Omdahl is a former lieutenant governor of North Dakota and former political science professor at the University of North Dakota, Grand Forks.

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