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Editorial: Let’s move past phase two

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to slog onward, mask-wearing prevalence seems to have settled in as a regular part of life for many folks and decreased in usage for others.

For a portion of people, it hasn’t caught on and, unfortunately, never will.

Post readers can see a sampling of how people treat mask wearing in the photos that appear in the newspaper. On Thursday, for example, page 3A showed no masks in a photo of a rally that featured Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves and North Carolina gubernatorial candidate Dan Forest, the state’s current lieutenant governor. No one in the photo, including Reeves is wearing a mask. Almost everyone in a photo of the grand opening of a restaurant in Spencer, meanwhile, has a mask on. Most people seem to wear masks in grocery stores, but don’t always do so elsewhere when they are in places where social distancing is hard.

Everyone has long forgotten about gathering restrictions of more than 25 people outdoors and more than 10 people indoors.

If the state is going to move out of its long-stalled phase two, it’s important for people to follow health guidelines to prevent further spread of the virus. Wearing a mask is a small step that single individuals can take toward ensuring that larger events are OK again and, among other things, that high school sports return. Abstaining from gathering in large groups does the same.

Political candidates like Forest may claim First Amendment exemptions. But the effect of having more than 200 people get together indoors poses the same danger whether it’s for a rally or something else. Sitting down does not suddenly eliminate the risk of transmission if people are in close proximity to one another. That’s why restaurants face additional restrictions on capacity

It’s good that a swath of people are abiding by mask-wearing and gathering rules. Students and public educators, in particular, seem to be setting the best example. But to move past phase two and ensure that shuttered businesses reopen, it’s critical that all, except for the small portion of people with medical issues, abide by state mandates.

People may not like the rules, but the criteria for moving into new phases of reopening are clear and involve improving COVID-19 metrics. Rebelling just for the sake of non-compliance is illogical when dozens of Rowan Countians and more than 2,600 North Carolinians have died and businesses have been forcibly closed.

Maybe parents should follow the example of their children, who are required to wear masks in school, instead of the other way around.

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