Uncommon Ground

Sickening Trend

No amount of bullying will scare off the virus

By Mike Jopek

It started raining. The temperatures cooled perceptibly. It felt good to see mountains again. As the haze lifted, the stress fell. We needed this, even for a little while. It’s been hard times for everyone in the Flathead. 

Hard times must’ve pushed people to yell at others or generally behave poorly in public forums like recent Whitefish School Board meetings or past city council sessions.

People who don’t even have children in school seemed upset that kids would wear masks to keep the rest of the district’s parents or fellow youngsters safer. The silent majority has nothing on the vocal minority when it comes to bullying public leaders.

The economic fallout from a worldwide pandemic coupled with this summer’s historic heats and unprecedented wildfire smoke proved unbearable. It’s still hard to reason how bad behavior yields good results. 

Maybe reason is the wrong word, it’s not much like anger is rational. Sure, I’m politically angry too. Homeowner property taxes are way too high and ever-increasing for locals as the state Legislature stopped mitigating tax reappraisals many years ago.

You won’t like all the decisions elected officials make. Welcome to the club. Safety feels inconvenient. But really, what’s more tiresome than wearing a smoke mask while working outdoors or a virus mask while shopping at the grocer?

Spend a day in the hospital watching a loved one. Those kinds of facilities quickly put perspective to life.

Our local hospitals are full of people fighting the latest variant of COVID-19. This oncoming super wave of sickness makes the jobs of local nurses, paramedics and doctors exceedingly hard and more stressful. It’s a job most of us couldn’t handle. The pressure on family must be enormous.

My dad relapsed from his accident, sending him back to a Florida hospital, which was in full lockdown. My mom couldn’t visit him. He was discharged five days later and sent back home steadier.

The Center for Disease Control reports that historically prevalent diseases like polio, tetanus, measles, influenza, hepatitis A and B, rubella, whooping cough, rotavirus, mumps, chickenpox, and diphtheria were all largely controlled by vaccines. 

A top tourist destination in the state, Flathead County last week had the highest COVID-19 cases per capita in Montana and the lowest vaccination rate of any large county statewide.

Gov. Greg Gianforte repealed the ability for Montana’s self-governing cities to keep citizens safe via mask mandates. It’s up to the governor or county commissioners to curtail this freedom variant of the coronavirus that’s running wild on streets of the Flathead, mocking personal responsibility political ideologies.

Last week just three counties – Flathead, Cascade, and Yellowstone – accounted for more than half of all coronavirus cases in Montana. So far, this sudden wave of the virus infected thousands more Montanans with COVID-19, hundreds were sent to hospital with the communicable disease while dozens of people died.

I know many people, including my spouse and dad, who might’ve died without past quality healthcare, which trained professionals with scientific minds provide to people in need regardless of political affiliations or personal ideologies. Instead, they’re recovering.

No amount of bullying will scare off the virus. Grandma’s strategy of kindness for dealing with another human with whom we disagree would prove more successful. 

That silent majority of Flathead citizens believe in safety and trusts what the valley’s doctors, nurses and pediatrics are urgently telling us. I’m grateful for these professionals and other public leaders like Whitefish School Board members who try their best to keep teachers, families and kids as safe as possible during this enormously stressful time we share in common.

The rain cleared the air briefly and day time temperatures plummeted. Maybe more Montanans can heed these cues to breathe and chill out. There’s plenty of days ahead and mindfully we’ll get there safer.

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