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Blubaugh: Who do you trust on coronavirus and reopening Maryland?

Years ago, a colleague and I were discussing taxes when he let slip his core belief on the issue — that he trusted the government to make the right choices with people’s money far more than he trusted the people to do anything remotely intelligent with their own money.

I called him arrogant, ridiculed his belief in government and decried his dim view of his fellow man.

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That conversation popped into my head recently with all the talk of reopening and getting back to pre-coronavirus normal. If we’re smart about it, maybe it can work. But will we be smart about it?

On Wednesday, during Gov. Larry Hogan’s news conference, Dr. David Marcozzi, the COVID-19 incident commander for the University of Maryland Medical System, urged everyone to use common sense.

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“To continue to flatten the curve, we as Marylanders need to be consistently making the right choices, for ourselves, for our friends and for our family,” he said.

Indeed, making the right choices is the key. It’s one thing if people do stupid things and it costs them their hard-earned money. It’s another if people do stupid things and it costs someone else their health or their life.

Dozens joined in the ReOpen Maryland protests last weekend. Some donned shirts with "Trust Each Other” inscribed on the back. Photos showed most sans masks and many failing to social distance.

But you don’t have to go to a protest to see that. Pop by a big box store on a nice day and you’ll likely wait in line to get in and see customers — all there for essential purchases only, I’m sure — who think nothing of standing on top of each other looking over merchandise.

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I don’t even have to leave my living room. I can see photos sent to us of houses with cars stacked up in driveways, apparently hosting good-sized gatherings. And I could look a few houses down last weekend and see a bunch of unrelated kids playing in a backyard, separated, at times, by zero inches.

Schools are out for the rest of the year and seniors, sadly, are being deprived of so much that goes along with senior year. But what do you want to bet in a few weeks there will be lots of graduation parties with 20, 50, 100 people?

We’re all sick of this. We want to get back to work. We want a return to normalcy. Problem is, you can’t just wish a pandemic out of existence.

I’m not sure why people think the coronavirus is waning in Maryland. Yes, we had four consecutive days of declining numbers from May 2 through May 5. We’ve also had four consecutive days of more than 1,000 new positive tests since. Thursday was the second-worst day in terms of new cases in Maryland since the crisis began.

Obviously, stay-at-home directives must be lifted eventually and business have to be allowed to reopen. I just wish I believed everyone would make the right choices once that happens.

I had a correspondence with a reader who thinks the coronavirus has been blown way out of proportion. He compared how many more people die of other maladies — I pointed out, you can’t bump into someone on the street and catch cancer or a heart attack — and said he would gladly give his own life so his children could thrive.

Maybe it doesn’t have to be either/or? Maybe we can live and there can still be a future if we exercise a bit more patience, at least while Maryland cases and its death toll continue to climb?

I’m as tired of being cooped up as anyone. And it’s tempting to say, “let’s go already!” I live in a ZIP code with a population of well over 20,000. Yet, if you exclude the nearby elder care facility, there have been a grand total of 15 coronavirus cases in eight weeks.

That can be viewed in one of two ways. The restrictive measures are either a tremendous overreaction or they’ve done their job in mitigating the spread.

For now, I’m choosing to look at it as the latter and to give it some more time. Because, while it’s generally against my nature, I trust the experts to make the right choices on this one far more than my neighbors and Facebook friends.

Bob Blubaugh is the editor of the Carroll County Times. His column appears Sundays. Email him at bob.blubaugh@carrollcountytimes.com.

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