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Let’s be blunt. We’re flunking the reopening of the economy. Big time. On the national, state and local levels.

Coronavirus cases are spiking – setting records in the most populous states in the nation. Montana numbers are likewise surging. Though the numbers here are relatively small, we are just a few clicks away from critical mass and an explosion of infection with the ensuing suffering.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

The epidemiologists – the scientists who study contagious disease – have made it clear and simple: If we don’t want to face another infection wave and be forced into another economic shutdown, we have to engage in simple measures – wash hands thoroughly and frequently, maintain social distancing and wear the damned masks.

Those masks, the experts say, are quite effective in preventing the spread of the virus. But a cruise around town shows we just aren’t getting it. Many of the clientele in local businesses are not wearing masks. And a drive down Main Street on a warm evening will reveal bar patrons giving little credence to mask wearing or social distancing.

We will pay a price for this.

On all levels, things are getting worse than they have been throughout the pandemic.

The state is recording dozens of new cases daily. And Gallatin County is head and shoulders above the other 55 counties with 28 percent of all cases right here.

There are exceptions. Some area businesses are requiring customers to wear masks. Other businesses should follow suit, and mask-savvy consumers should patronize those businesses that require masks.

Strutting around stores smug in the confidence the virus won’t harm you should not be an option. You have the potential to be a walking virus transport that can infect and the most vulnerable among us.

Local health officials say they will consider a rule requiring residents to wear a mask in public, indoor spaces. That’s certainly worthy of consideration, but ask yourself: Do we need a rule to force us into doing what is clearly the right thing?

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Editorial Board

  • Mark Dobie, publisher
  • Nick Ehli, managing editor
  • Bill Wilke, opinion page editor
  • Richard Broome, community member
  • Renee Gavin, community member
  • Will Swearingen, community member
  • Angie Wasia, community member

To send feedback on editorials, write to citydesk@dailychronicle.com.