I have been asked on several occasions by persons from outside the immediate area how the COVID-19 pandemic and consequent stay-at-home directives have affected us here in Mineral County.

I have been asked on several occasions by persons from outside the immediate area how the COVID-19 pandemic and consequent stay-at-home directives have affected us here in Mineral County.
My answer has been twofold. First and foremost, we have been very blessed in this area to have not been hit as hard as many of the areas around us. I cannot imagine living in New York, or Baltimore, or even Frederick, Maryland, and witnessing the devastation that this disease has caused.
The second part of my answer, though, just may have been caused in part by us being spared that devastation.
For I have told people what little bit I am out in the public (I mostly go straight to work when I have to and straight back home), it would sometimes seem as if nothing is happening out of the ordinary.
As a Maryland resident, I am required by state mandate to wear a mask in any public place over there, and I have kept that mask on whenever I need to be somewhere in West Virginia, as well.
Not because it is mandated by the governor, but because it is the smart thing to do.
Why then do I see so many people out there without masks and apparently without any thought to what social distancing means?
A couple weeks ago, I found myself needing to go into a local store for a necessary item on my way home from a trip to the office. I was greeted at the door of this business by at least three signs that said something to the effect of, “STOP! Absolutely nobody in this store without a mask!”
Since I had my mask, I proceeded inside, and was pleased to see the guy who waited on me from behind the counter not only had a mask on, but plexiglass shields had also been put into place between him and his customers.
However, while I was being waited on by that helpful young man, no less than four people came in the door behind me with no signs of masks anywhere.
Now, based on our blessings in this area, I can understand in a way why so many people are saying the virus is nothing to be afraid of and that we don’t need “our freedom of choice” taken away from us.
Truthfully, I was quite skeptical myself in the beginning, until someone pointed out to me that it’s not all about me or whether I get sick, but to whom could I be carrying the virus  … even if I feel fine.
I could take it home to my family. I could walk into the office and pass it on to my immuno-compromised co-worker. Or pass it on to the older lady in line in front of me in the store.
The list could go on, and on. You never really realize just how many people you come in close contact with on a daily basis until you are faced with a pandemic.
I have also heard people say it’s no worse than the flu if you do get it, but I have also read stories from reputable news sources where people have detailed their near-death experiences.
My question is this: Why take the chance?
Someone said to me, it should be my choice whether to wear a mask or not.
Now believe me, I am just enough a child of the ‘60s-‘70s that I often get my feathers really ruffled when it comes to having personal choices and freedoms taken away from me.
But again I ask: Why take the chance of infecting someone? And I add to that: Where is our sense of responsibility?
It may be that person’s “choice” to not wear a mask, but if someone becomes infected, it soon becomes that person’s “problem.”
Gov. Jim Justice started opening up West Virginia on Thursday, and announced he is changing his “stay-at-home” directive this coming week to “safer-at-home,” as we get back to the business of living as normally as we can.
The idea of “safer-at-home” is basically, go out there if you  must, but be safe, and stay at home when you can.
Maryland’s Gov. Larry Hogan is not to that point yet, and has said he will not ease his directives until the numbers of positive test results start going down.
Other states have been the sites of near-riots as protestors demand the restrictions be lifted and life go back to normal.
My fear is this: As these states open up and restrictions are eased, how many people will abandon what precautions are being taken and  try to go back to what they consider normal?
After all, there are those who haven’t been taking any precautions throughout the entire pandemic!
I applaud the stepped approach Gov. Justice is taking (actually, I think the idea of opening back up in phases originally came from President Trump), and I agree that elective surgeries, medical and dental offices, and even salons and barbers need to get back in business. (I sure could use a good haircut myself right about now!)
But please follow the governor’s recommendations and continue to take precautions!
When you go shopping for those necessary items, keep your distance and wear your mask! Follow the directional arrows if they have them and make sure you wash your hands when you are done!
Is it too soon to open up the beaches, theaters, restaurants? As much as I personally enjoy all three, I fear that we will be opening ourselves up to a second round of coronavirus if we do.
I realize these businesses are hurting right now. We all are. We need to help each other out as much as we can … order that takeout. Support the community theater’s virtual fund raisers. Buy that newspaper online subscription.
And when these businesses do open back up … Wear your mask and wash your hands!
We WILL come out of this … we just need to be careful.
I really don’t think any of us want to go through this the second time around!

Liz Beavers is the award-winning managing editor of the Mineral Daily News Tribune and can be reached at lbeavers@newstribune.info. And yes, her mask makes her glasses steam up, too!