Op/Ed

Editorial: A tale of a divided America

COVID-19 is the story of the week, again, across the nation. As we surpass 15 million Americans who have contracted the disease and are nearing 300,000 fatalities — at more than 2,500 deaths daily — we still are a nation divided; a nation in which far too many are still defying the reality of this disease and the straightforward steps to slow its spread.
In Mitchell, S.D., a rural town of 15,600 residents along I-90 that is home of the famous Corn Palace, a crowd of 100-plus anti-mask protesters marched outside a city council meeting in mid-November chanting threats as the council passed its first, limited mask order, 5-3, which merely asked residents to wear a mask inside public buildings and businesses. 
It’s hard to imagine, here in Vermont, a group of neighbors who would be so riled up they would encircle the city council building and shout menacing threats for the mere act of voting on a limited mask order to protect fellow residents. Know too, this very town had seen 13 of its county residents die of the virus in the week before the vote. South Dakotans also have the distinction of having the largest increase in deaths per capita in the nation as of Dec. 8. That’s largely because Republican Gov. Kristi Noem has defied calls for a statewide mask mandate, has played down the severity of the virus, and encourages South Dakotans to choose personal freedom (to infect others?) over personal responsibility.
Vermont’s story is thankfully different. While we have seen recent spikes and the state is on high alert, so far Vermonters have accepted the personal responsibility needed to keep the virus’s spread in control — all with the blessing of a community spirit devoted to protecting each other. 
Today’s front-page story of the Fuentes-George family of East Middlebury contracting the virus and recovering in good shape is not only one of good fortune and of following state mandates that prevented further spread, but also of the good will of their friends and neighbors who responded with kindness, thoughtfulness and care.
It’s a tale of two Americas. It’s not hard to see which tale has the happier ending.
Angelo Lynn

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