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Don’t want to be The One

Nobody wants to be The One, to be the person responsible for infecting a community, congregation, family or team.

Imagine knowing you were The One who caused someone to become severely ill and die. That is a lot of weight to shoulder through life, whether the victim was a beloved relative or complete stranger.

Now imagine the difference you would feel knowing you did everything by the book and still contracted and spread the disease against knowing it happened because you behaved recklessly.

With COVID-19 cases rising on Maui, it is disheartening to hear some of the island’s recent coronavirus spread is connected to events like crowded beach parties and drum circles. Frustrated by these social distancing lapses, Maui County Mayor Michael Victorino is ready to stop playing “nice.” He has called for police to begin arresting rule breakers.

It wouldn’t be the first instance of somebody being tossed in the slammer for not following pandemic guidelines. Maui police have already arrested quarantine breakers and beachgoers who have refused to comply with rules. In 1918 and 1919, during the Spanish flu which killed an estimated 50 million people worldwide and 675,000 in the United States, police also enforced health rules.

According to a recent story in The New York Times, San Francisco had a Mask Court that sentenced “mask slackers” to up to 10 days in jail. On Nov. 9, 1918, San Francisco police arrested 1,000 people for mask violations.

One of the most notorious quarantine cheats in American history was Mary Mallon, an Irish immigrant cook who came to be known as “Typhoid Mary.” Mallon lived from 1869 to 1938 and was an asymptomatic carrier of the disease, a superspreader. She is confirmed to have infected 51 people, three of whom died. The actual numbers are believed to be greater, perhaps far greater.

She worked for eight different New York area families from 1900-1907 and infected seven of them with typhoid fever. An investigation revealed her as the source, and she was sentenced to quarantine on North Brother Island in 1907. Upon her release three years later, she went to work as a laundress.

As long as Mallon did not handle food, she could not transmit the disease. But a laundress earned less than a cook and she eventually went back to the job. Using false names and spawning new cases wherever she cooked, Mallon dodged authorities as she worked in a restaurant, hotel, spa and eventually a hospital where 25 people became infected and two died.

That is where authorities caught up with Mallon in 1915. She spent the rest of her life in quarantine on North Brother Island.

Some people are selfish. The chances they take can affect all of us. We’re not sure throwing partiers and quarantine cheats in jail is the answer, but holding them accountable is a good first step.

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