Coping with widespread ignorance during a pandemic

People ignore simple suggestions like wearing a mask to help prevent the spread of a deadly disease. Just plain dumb and stupid?
Example of a fake "Mask Exempt" card, provided by the U.S. Department of Justice.

Spending more time than ever talking with friends online, via chats over the web or texts,, which I hate. Personal contact during an pandemic is limited if one wants to avoid infection.

That, of course, is a big “if” in places like Floyd County, where the increase of COVID-19 infections have risen by more than 160 cases in less than two months, and Montgomery County, where stupid mistakes by partying students at Virginia Tech, have added more than 700 cases in less than a month.

Several health officials won’t get into a public fight with a large university like Tech have, privately, told us that Tech’s leadership has been less than adequate in handling the Coronavirus.

They point to James Madison University in Harrisonburg as a school that took proper action by shutting down the campus and sending students home to study online until further notice.

Michigan State University reversed itself and cancelled campus classes that were set to start on Sept. 2, telling its 40,000 students to stay home and log in. The school will not stay online only for the current semester, and possibly longer.

“It has become evident to me that, despite our best efforts and strong planning, it is unlikely we can prevent widespread transmission of COVID-10 between students if our undergraduates return to campus,” said Dr. Samuel Stanley, president of Michigan State, and also an infectious disease expert.

“The problem with school openings is that we so f—ing stupid about doing it,” Dr. Paul Offit, a pediatrician who specializes in infectious diseases, told CNBC.

Notre Dame tried opening, but a spike in cases sent students home.

“Mostly, I’m just angry,” Notre Dame student Duncan Donahue told the news channel. “Just because the flaws in the university’s testing system are so obvious, like not testing asymptomatic people, not hiring enough contact tracers. I’m 20, and I don’t have a science degree, and to it’s clear that this is not going to work. But they still brought us back, and then shocker, we have massive exponential growth of COVID-19 on campus.”

While a few, primarily older persons with serious respiratory problems, might have a medical condition that prohibits wearing a mask, most of the barefaced ones we see around Floyd are younger and look fairly healthy, at least physically so.

Health officials say much of the increase in places like Floyd County come from simply ignoring the safety regulations like wearing a face mask and keeping social distance. Some are even using fake cards issued by a phony group called “The Freedom to Breathe Agency.”

The card falsely claims that wearing a mask will “incur mental or physical risk for the holder” and further claims that the American Disabilities Act provides “steep penalties” like fines up to $150,000 to a business that tries to enforce using masks.

Untrue, says the federal government office. Like so much information floating around in this pandemic, the cards were distributed on Facebook by the fake “Freedom to Breathe Agency.”

Like so many scams, the cards came with a fee: $49 for a box of 500.

“Do not be fooled by the chicanery and misappropriation of the DOJ eagle,” Matthew G.T. Martin, the United States attorney for the Middle District of North Carolina, tells The New York Times. “These cards do not carry the force of law. The ‘Freedom to Breathe Agency,’ or ‘FTBA,’ is not a government agency.”

“God muse love stupid people,” says a quote often erroneously attributed to P.T. Barnum. “He made so many.”

We know. We see them every day, without masks, in places like our local Food Lion or convenience stores or just about everywhere.

Then we see them included in the increases of COVID-19 cases published daily by the Virginia Department of Health.

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