PERHAPS MORE than at anytime since the Great Flood of 1993, we are now being reminded that while we might be separated by rivers and state lines, our lives are more connected with others across the region far more than we realize on a daily basis.
It's not, however, a raging flood or damaging storms or a similar disaster teaching us this lesson. No, it is a tiny virus, heretofore unseen among the human population, traversing the globe in a wave of infection that has killed nearly 700,000 people so far, about 150,000 of them Americans.
That's why it was heartening on Thursday to see Kyle Moore, James Hark and Tom Richardson -- the mayors of Quincy, Hannibal, Mo., and Keokuk, Iowa, respectively -- don their masks and gather in Hannibal to announce a challenge to area residents they feel could put a halt to a recent spike in cases before it climbs to devastating levels.
The challenge is simple: For 21 days, get nearly everyone to wear a mask while in public when safe social distancing isn't possible to turn back the rising tide of cases, saving lives and the local economy.
Their message was couched in the belief that fighting the virus is a matter not only of self-discipline but also one of caring for our neighbors' well-being, an idea with which we are in wholehearted agreement.
As the mayors pointed out, it's really a matter of being good neighbors. This virus easily can be passed on for days before carriers even know they're infected. By wearing a mask, they significantly reduce the chance they might pass on the virus. That carrier could be any one of us, and we never know when we might pass the virus on to someone whose body could be ravaged by the immune response that is killing or causing serious long-term conditions for so many people.
The mayors were joined at the gathering by Blessing Health System's Chief of Medicine Dr. Chris Solaro and Dr. Erik Meidl, an internal medicine physician at Hannibal Clinic. The physicians shared scientific evidence to support the mayors' push, reminding those gathered that masks have shown to be 70% effective in stopping transmission of the virus.
The reality is quite concerning. On June 16, there had been 44 cases in Adams County. By July 1, that number had climbed to 98. On Friday, Adams County surpassed 300 cases, and the numbers across the river are showing increases, as well.
An example was shared at the meeting of a previous cluster of cases from several weeks ago that reached 84 people across all three states before it was halted.
It's a stark reminder to us all that it only takes one gathering to ignite a cluster.
We offer kudos to the mayors for coming together and demonstrating how regional this fight must be. This virus will not stop at rivers or borders in its search for a host. Our efforts to stop it must not, either.