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In the U.S., as in many countries around the globe, coronavirus (COVID-19) cases and deaths continue to skyrocket. Who could have predicted such? Who would have thought we’d be facing more dire pandemic outcomes now than we faced this summer?

Oh wait. Scientists, that’s who. Epidemiologists, that’s who. Front-line health care workers, that’s who.

Yet here we are.

Here we are seeing our positive test rates well into double digits.

Here we are stretching our health care systems around the country to their breaking point.

Here we are filling hospitals — some beyond capacity — with COVID-19 patients, many of whom will die.

Here many among us are acting like the pandemic is “just the flu.”

Here we are in the middle of a deadly pandemic wondering what happened to “it’s going to go away on Nov. 4.” (Nobody with functioning gray matter actually believed that, by the way. But everyone had to secretly be a little hopeful.)

Now we know without a shadow of a doubt the scientists and epidemiologists were right.

Yet here we are.

Here we are with high school football stadiums packed and nary a mask to be found, nor social distancing observed.

Here we are with some law enforcement officers and emergency personnel responding to auto accidents and not one of them wearing a mask. (We have photos from Pennington Gap as proof.)

Here we are with some stores filled with patrons and less than 10% wearing masks. And social distancing? Forget about it.

Here we are with houses of worship packing the pews, and hardly a mask to be seen.

Those of us who understand the severity of this pandemic are doing our part. We’re wearing our masks. We’re social distancing. We’re taking every measure possible to protect ourselves AND protect others. Our actions are not enough. Nor will government mandates to wear a mask be enough. Those most defiant will continue to thumb their noses at science until someone close to them literally dies.

But we can’t wait for those individual epiphanies.

We need action now.

So, we again call on the business community to take the lead. Make it a requirement that patrons in your businesses wear a mask. You can do that. It’s your business, and you have every right to protect your employees and the right-thinking patrons who frequent your establishment.

School officials, shut down attendance at sporting events. Those crowds are a potential soup of COVID-19 spread.

Ministers, you can get your message across to your flock via social media or streaming or some other electronic method. Having your believers sitting shoulder-to-shoulder puts everyone at risk.

Nobody wants to wear a mask. But we have health care workers wearing one — and a bunch of other uncomfortable but necessary protective garb — for 10-plus hours a day. If they can do that, can’t you put one on for a few minutes a day?

And if you don’t give two hoots about your own health, how about caring about your family, co-workers and those around you?

Is it really that hard to wear a mask for a few minutes? For all but a minuscule handful of people, the answer is “no.”

For those mentioned above who can get us on the road to recovery, please do the right thing, even in the face of the inevitable backlash.

For everyone, mask up, please. The sooner everyone does, the sooner we can discard those pesky things.