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Coronavirus -- covid-19 -- an illness previously unfamiliar to many people, but which has, since March, altered almost everyone's daily life.

It's been 100 days since Pea Ridge School officials (along with school officials around the state) announced the closing of schools in mid-March. At the time, the closure was thought to be temporary. But, that closure extended throughout the remainder of the spring semester with the cancellation of the classes, sporting events, junior-senior prom, band and choir concerts and graduation. Many small businesses were ordered to close; eating establishments were allowed to provide food pickup but not dining room service.

Rules repeatedly shared at every venue were to wear a face mask, wash hands, socially distance at least six feet from others. Gatherings of more than 10 people were forbidden. Clubs canceled meetings.

Government meetings were canceled, then began to meet via Zoom.

Churches either held parking lot services or provided services online.

And, now, 100 days later, as the state (and therefore Benton County, Pea Ridge and surrounding cities) enters Phase 2 of the reopening, the admonition to wear a mask continues.

People debate, nay, argue, the wisdom or necessity of wearing a mask. Many decry the government's right to tell them what to do. Others claim it's ineffective.

A restaurant manager said the hostess was cursed at when she told a customer he had to wear a mask until he was seated at his table.

I do not profess to have the medical nor scientific knowledge first-hand to say whether wearing a mask is life-saving. But, this I know, there are more things at stake than just my opinion.

Advice I read recently makes excellent sense. It is:

Wear a mask while in public for three reasons:

• Humility: I don't know if I have covid-19 as it is clear that people can spread the disease before they have the symptoms.

• Kindness: I don't know if the person I am near has a child battling cancer, cares for an elderly parent, has an immune deficiency. While I might be fine, they might not be.

• Community: I want my community to thrive, businesses to stay open, employees to stay healthy. Keeping a lid on covid-19 helps us all.

What are reasons not to wear a mask? Are you embarrassed? Do you feel you'll be considered stupid or weak? Do you not like being told what to do?

Well, honestly, every one of us struggles with some of these fears. But, over all the reasons, logically and emotionally, there's the consideration of kindness.

I may believe I'm healthy and refuse to acknowledge the possibility of getting infected. But, what if, through my own arrogance I do become ill? And, what if, while contagious, I cause someone else -- someone who lives with an infant, someone with a weakened immune system, someone with a debilitating illness, someone's grandmother or grandfather -- to catch the coronavirus and suffer and even die? Is my pride worth that?

Many people in town remember Pansy Gastineau. Even if they did not know her, they most likely benefited from her founding the local Beta Alpha chapter in 1964 as it has hosted the fair and fair parade, the Miss Pea Ridge pageants, the Easter egg hunt, the Christmas parade, the Fourth of July parade, and many other events over the past five decades. She died recently from covid-19, three days after her husband died of covid-19, and just a few days before her sister-in-law died of covid-19. One family lost three loved ones.

As of June 22, there have been 31 deaths from covid-19 in Benton County, according to the Benton County Coroner's Office. The persons ranged in age from 31 to 98. There were four people in their 30s, three in their 40s, five people in their 50s, five in their 60s, seven in their 70s, five in their 80s and two in their 90s.

In Arkansas, as of June 22, there were 16,083 confirmed cases with 227 deaths. There were 2,087 cases reported in Benton County, according to the Arkansas Department of Health.

Every one of those people represents a family member, a loved one and leaves behind people to mourn them, even if not at a funeral as large gatherings are forbidden.

I don't have all the answers. I don't know the big picture and I can't change the culture, the city, the state, the nation. But, I can do my best to be kind to minister grace to all within my sphere of influence.

Will you join me? Just be kind and considerate.

•••

Editor's note: Annette Beard is the managing editor of The Times of Northeast Benton County, chosen the best small weekly newspaper in Arkansas for five years. She is the mother of nine grown children and 12 grandchildren. The opinions expressed are those of the author. She can be reached at [email protected]

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Wear mask while in public for three reasons:

• Humility

• Kindness

• Community

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