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If you think way back to the middle of March (I know time has no relevant meaning for a lot of us anymore, but give it a try), there was a period when West Virginia was watching Kentucky and Ohio react to the coronavirus, then planning its own moves in a kind of delayed step. So a lot of us knew at that time schools were probably going to shut down for a bit, and maybe some workplaces as well.

It was a more innocent time, when joking about COVID-19 was somewhat permissible, as most of us had no idea what was coming. For example, I cracked a joke on Facebook that I had been practicing and perfecting social distancing for more than 40 years. My wife quipped to friends that I was “made for this” — never having to leave the house and having as little contact with the outside world as possible. That was hyperbole, of course, but, like all good jokes, there was a grain of truth in there somewhere.

My wife, meanwhile, is on the opposite end of the spectrum. She wants to be out and about, meeting up with people and visiting friends and relatives. We balance each other nicely. But by the time the coronavirus hit, she had been battling cancer for two months, and was already more or less quarantined because flu season posed a great risk to her compromised immune system.

After COVID-19 imposed this semi-sheltered existence on everyone, my wife began to fray well before I did, and understandably so given everything she was dealing with. Eventually, though, even this quasi-hermit began to lose patience with the inability to go to certain places or do certain things. But I rationalized that the health risk, which is a door that opens both ways, wasn’t worth it. And it still isn’t.

The frustrating thing, however, is that despite the efforts of many, the numbers are going to wrong way in West Virginia and other states.

Over the Labor Day weekend, I took a drive with my wife and our son through our native Kentucky — and I emphasize the word drive. My wife had to have a change of scenery, or she was going to lose it. I was, too, really. We went past a lake in a state park and saw throngs of people with their boats tied together for a party. There had to be dozens of them, climbing all over each others’ watercraft, not a mask in sight. It was disheartening — as were the video clips of students crowding on top of each other in bars in college towns across the country.

Those things told me the numbers are going to continue to go up over the next five days to two weeks, and some people either don’t care or, worse, buy into the wholly unsupported notion that this is not serious or even real. Some of the same people who would argue we needed to reopen businesses and schools before a vaccine are now ensuring that none of those things will proceed without casualties until there is one.

I’m tired of COVID-19. I’m tired of writing about COVID-19. My editors are really tired of me writing about COVID-19. But it’s still here, and I can’t pretend it’s not. It comes back to a point myself and others have made time and again: Reality is non-negotiable. Perception is handy in ignoring or navigating past some truths, but a virus doesn’t care about spin.

Be prepared to continue in this necessary, strange sort of existence until a vaccine is available, because we’re not responsible enough for another solution.

Ben Fields is the opinion editor

for the Gazette-Mail. Reach him at

ben.fields@wvgazettemail.com or follow

@BenFieldsWV on Twitter.