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As we have reported, the coronavirus pandemic, as predicted, has caught its second wind. If you’re among the elderly or those with medical conditions that put you at greater risk, we urge you to please stay home for your protection.

Following weeks of a nationwide rapid climb in COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations and deaths, some governors are asking those whose lives are at most risk from infection to go back to the basics we all were asked to follow at the beginning of the pandemic: Wear a mask, social distance, keep your contacts minimal, and wash your hands frequently.

The nation surpassed 1 million new confirmed coronavirus cases in just the first 10 days of November, with more than 100,000 infections each day becoming the norm. It’s a surge that shows no signs of slowing.

In the Virginia counties of Scott, Wise and Lee, 315 new cases were reported during that period, nearly four times the number in the same period of October, including a one-day record 100 new cases. Tennessee remains in the top 10 states in total cases with 635 new cases during that period in Sullivan County alone, as compared to 353 cases in the first 10 days of October.

Southwest Virginia residents will be the target of a state campaign calling for smaller holiday gatherings and more mask wearing. Tennessee counties that have not required wearing masks in public are on average seeing COVID-19 death rates double or more compared with those that instituted mandates, according to a report just released by the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.

The study focused on three groups of counties: 11 early adopters with mask mandates as of July 10; 17 late adopters with mandates implemented after July 10; and 67 that never adopted a requirement. Researchers found the early- and late-adopting groups saw death rates that had been increasing start to drop within a few weeks of implementing requirements, while the group with no requirements continued to see death rate increases.

The early adopters on average had a rate of about one death a week per 100,000 people as of the first week in October; late adopters’ death rate was about two; and the counties without mask mandates had a rate of four, according to the report. The analysis comes as new case counts rise in Tennessee.

Yet Gov. Bill Lee continues to oppose a statewide mask mandate, stressing personal responsibility. He has instead allowed counties to decide whether to require masks. Sullivan County has been under a continuous mask mandate, and according to the study, there’s no doubt that the order to wear masks has saved lives.

“This analysis shows that strategies, including but not limited to masking while in contact with others, can have real impact on people’s lives,” John Graves, director of the Vanderbilt Center for Health Economic Modeling, said in a news release. “Mask mandates are associated with greater mask wearing and other behaviors like limiting close contacts with others, and the combined impact is clear and substantial.”

Utah Gov. Gary R. Herbert announced a statewide mask mandate on Nov. 8, bringing to 34, including Virginia, the number of state governments that require people to wear face coverings in public to curb the spread of COVID-19.

The pandemic is out of control, and it’s proven that masks save lives, yet 18 states, including Tennessee, have yet to require them.

Why? What could be the justification for failing to act?