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Charles Owens

As Craig Hammond will often say on his morning Radio Active talk show, you can expect to be reading plenty of books about the year 2020 in the not-too-distant future.

Of course, now that we are a good nine months into the pandemic, we don’t necessarily have to wait for those books to hit our local stores to begin our critiques of how everyone handled arguably one of the worst years ever in American history.

Yes, 2020 will no doubt be remembered as a truly loathsome period in American history.

And while this atrocious year is not yet over, we are certainly far enough into it now to play the Monday Morning Quarterback game.

Today, eight months later, many are still debating whether the state-ordered shutdowns back in March were a good idea or not.

Here is my take for what it is worth. We didn’t know what we were dealing with. The virus from China was an unknown. All we had to go by was the stories out of Europe, Italy and other countries where the COVID-19 death toll was mounting. Since the virus was so new, a knee-jerk reaction was to be expected. We also didn’t know how to treat those who contracted the disease or whether or not to even wear a mask. And if you remember, back in March, no one was telling us to wear a mask. In fact, area stores — at least before they were largely shut down — didn’t even have masks to buy.

Back in December 2019, I was able to buy a pack of face masks while they were still available, mostly as a precaution at the time due to what was unfolding in China. The virus had just been unleashed upon the world, and a city of several million had been placed under quarantine. I remember a store cashier telling me it was a wise purchase.

Back to March. The main problem with the business shutdowns ordered by West Virginia Governor Jim Justice and Virginia Governor Ralph Northam is that the big box and super center stores were allowed to remain open while most of the smaller stores, including your locally owned mom-and-pop type of shops, were ordered to close.

So you could still walk around aimlessly at the local super center — without a mask by the way — but you couldn’t shop at most of the smaller stores in the same shopping center complex. It didn’t make a lot of sense. And the economic damage from a nearly two-month long shutdown to many of those smaller stores was immense. Some simply didn’t survive.

That was truly unfortunate. Government should never pick winners and losers when it comes to our free market society.

That’s why, at least I hope, we won’t see another large-scale blanket shutdown order coming out of Charleston or Richmond again anytime soon — second wave of the pandemic or not. In my humble opinion, things would have to get really bad — I’m talking about the virus mutating or the death toll suddenly spiking again — for such an order to be justified.

I try to listen to Craig’s radio show on the way into work each morning, and it would appear that  many of his guests share a similar mindset. I also know there are others out there who will immediately scream that the shutdowns were necessary in order to save lives. I don’t disagree with that argument. But, once again, why let the big stores stay open and force the smaller ones to close?

As you can see, I am playing the Monday Morning Quarterback game. So are those individuals who maintain, now eight months later, that the closure of all of the small mom-and-pop businesses was necessary. Of course, it should also be noted that the department stores tend to have larger crowds than your smaller mom-and-pop shops.

Also, eight months later, we are still wrestling with the whole mask mandate issue. Let me state that I am not opposed to wearing a mask. I wear a mask at work and when out in public and area stores. Yet, there are many in our region who still refuse to wear a mask.

Here is the thing to remember. It’s not just about protecting yourself. It’s about protecting other people that you come within close contact to. No, a mask doesn’t provide 100 percent protection, but it’s better than nothing. And the whole point of wearing a mask isn’t to protect yourself, but to protect other people.

Of course, back in March and April, no one was ordering us to wear a mask. Once again, it’s simply a matter of looking back at what could have and should have been done during the early days of the pandemic.

I guess we live and learn from our mistakes. Or we can simply continue to fight about it on social media, which appears to be the preference of some.

— Charles Owens is the Daily Telegraph’s assistant managing editor. Contact him at Follow him @BDTOwens

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