What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate.

With more than 80,000 Americans in an early grave, and hundreds more dying every day, most folks are justifiably concerned about the coronavirus. So they continue to minimize their exposure, and they continue to avoid putting others at risk.

COVID-19 has killed nearly 20 people in Lewiston and Clarkston but, so far, it hasn’t gained much traction on the Palouse. Some people interpret that to mean it can’t – or won’t – kill anyone here, so they’re dropping their precautions.

For them, the coronavirus was like a fleeting summer squall. The rain has stopped, and the sun is shining again. In their eyes, the pandemic is in the past.

The impetus behind this hasty return to “normalcy” is that many people are running short of money. They have bills to pay, mouths to feed, and those problems are more concrete, more immediate than the threat posed by an invisible virus that isn’t even a problem around here.

All of which puts wind in the sails of people like Pullman City Councilman Al Sorensen, who suggests Whitman County stick its head in the sand and stop testing people for the coronavirus. His logic — if that’s the right word — is that many of the commerce restrictions imposed by Washington Gov. Jay Inslee will be lifted if Whitman County can go 21 days with no new confirmed cases.

Sorensen’s suggestion could revolutionize modern medicine because, hey, you can’t have a broken leg if you don’t look at the X-ray. Right?

Even if you don’t go looking for it, the coronavirus could find you — and possibly kill you. Odds are that it won’t, but the odds shorten as more people toss their masks aside and belly up to the bar in places such as the Hardware Brewing Co. in Kendrick. The little brew pub, which opened for business May 1, is openly defying Idaho Gov. Brad Little’s statewide order to remain closed.

Christine Lohman, who owns Hardware Brewing with her husband, has a good understanding of what her customers want – so she’s serving up a piping hot platter of pan-fried patriotism.

In an interview with the Lewiston Tribune, Lohman said her customers “ ... are coming to exercise their liberty and to be able to talk to each other without hiding their faces in fear. This whole stand is about liberty.”

Though it’s not their fault, this is an unfortunate time for Lohman and her husband to launch a people-intensive venture like a brew pub. I feel for them, because they’ve sunk a lot of heart and soul — not to mention money — into their new business. They have a lot to lose because their alcoholic beverage license is now squarely at risk.

Again, it’s reasonable to question why people like the Lohmans are asked to suffer serious, perhaps terminal, economic damage to minimize a threat that’s more theoretical than actual. This may be surprising, but the answer has a lot in common with termites.

If you’re poking around in your basement and you find one termite, well, that’s not much of a problem. Even if you find 10 termites, it’s still not much of a problem.

But if you find thousands of termites, you: 1) Have a big problem; and 2) are too late to nip it in the bud.

That’s where we are on the Palouse these days. We’ve got something that — at the moment — is a small, manageable problem. If we continue to be vigilant, chances are it will stay that way. But if we allow ourselves to believe the problem is behind us, we could wake up to a basement full of termites.

Keep in mind, the coronavirus is much, much worse than termites. It is highly contagious, deadlier than the flu, and there is no vaccine. If you get it, your life comes down to a roll of the dice. If you lose, you die.

Everybody clear on that?

So keep wearing your mask when you enter a building. It’s a courtesy to others, a way of saying you’re willing to make a small, personal sacrifice for the well-being of all.

And it’s a good reminder the danger hasn’t passed.

After years of collecting passport stamps,William Brock ran aground in Pullman in 2001.

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