COVID-19 is bad enough, but some other kind of virus must also be loose in the environment, a virus that attacks the brain.

I’m guessing it attacks politicians, bureaucrats, scientists, business executives and run-of-the mill citizens who are dealing with COVID-19 – or not dealing with it, as the case may be.

There are at least two manifestations that this covert virus is attacking the brain’s frontal lobe where reasoning takes place.

One sign of infection is manifest in scientists or other authorities who advise us to do things we can’t do, the other is evident in people who refuse to take protective measures that they could do.

Telling folks to wear masks when they can’t buy them is an excellent example of frontal lobe infection.

Refusing to wear masks when they are available is a manifestation of the second type of serious malfunctioning thought processes.

Unfortunately, scientists have found no treatment and the undetected virus is spreading rapidly.

Among the most alarming examples occurred recently in Stillwater, Okla., where store clerks were accosted by customers who weren’t following the city’s order to wear masks in public.

Some armed customers didn’t just intimidate, but overtly threatened store clerks, essentially claiming the Second Amendment gives citizens a right to infect other citizens with a potentially fatal disease.

These folks are so cognitively disturbed that they shouldn’t be allowed to have firearms. Not even BB guns. Maybe not even paint guns.

Stillwater’s mayor, Will Joyce, citing public safety, took the threats so seriously that he rescinded the mask rule less than 24 hours after it was announced.

Let’s think about that reasoning for a moment. Is a mere threat to shoot someone a greater public safety issue than spreading potentially lethal germs to a whole community?

Is bellicose verbal harassment a greater threat than spreading disease?

Apparently Mayor Joyce thinks so, and where does that leave us?

There is a lesson to be learned from the Stillwater episode. If we back down from bullies who threaten us, they win. Failure to learn it is a serious threat to the public welfare.

Fortunately, most folks who don’t observe mask orders aren’t deranged. Some can’t get masks. Either they aren’t given to them when shopping, visiting medical offices, etc., or can’t buy them locally.

Some just don’t understand. They may be confused by conflicting advice from government officials — especially from President Donald Trump who sometimes makes conflicting statements in the same press briefing — and from the torrent of miasma in social media.

Kudos to a clerk in a Pullman retail store who responded to my wife’s gentle protest that he wasn’t wearing a mask by putting one on.

Many local seamstresses have made masks not only for their family and friends, but for local hospitals, medical offices, first responders and others.

A lot of masks and sanitizer are available on the Internet at what appear to be reasonable prices. We have ordered some from vendors who promise one- or two-day shipping, but haven’t received the packages yet as I write.

I trust they will be along within a reasonable time.

Terence L. Day is a retired Washington State faculty member and a Pullman resident since 1972. He encourages email to terence@moscow.com.

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