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Look before you leap

“Watch this.”

Whether it is a kid on a bike about to christen a homemade jump or a tourist set to leap off a waterfall without first checking the depth of the mountain pool below, good things rarely happen after those two words are spoken. The declaration is where risk meets a suspension of caution, and where, “go for it,” often turns quickly into, “go to the hospital.”

Having covered tragedies and written heartbreaking headlines, journalists have a motto to guide them when they stand at the precipice. Don’t become part of the story. It is one of the first rules of the profession. It means journalists should not take sides or insert themselves into what they cover. It is also cautionary. Don’t get swept away in the flood you are reporting upon or burned in the fire.

Mankind’s interest is always piqued by irony, when the opposite of what is expected happens. Like the firehouse burns down or the response to a global pandemic turns political.

Folks we see on TV flaunting mask-wearing rules and attending large gatherings remind us of visitors from Ohio who tempt fate by paddling boogie boards out during a swell at Big Beach. You just know in your heart, “watch this,” is not going to end well.

In many ways, COVID-19 is like a rogue 12-foot wave rolling into Makena. Its danger is indiscriminate. Some folks will duck through, some will ride it out and some unfortunates will be pummeled and perhaps die. The only way to truly be safe is to not be exposed to the wave or the virus.

If someone wants to attend a motorcycle rally in Sturgis, S.D., with 460,000 other people, many of them not wearing masks, that’s their business right? What could possibly go wrong? A study out of San Diego State University says 266,796 cases nationwide may already be linked to the 10-day rally held last month.

South Dakota officials dispute the numbers. Why wouldn’t they? After all, they are the ones who told America, “watch this.”

Search “COVID denier deaths” and a slew of tragic stories pop up. There’s a few about a Dallas denier who hosted a party that got himself and 14 family members sick. He thought the pandemic was a hoax. Tragically, his partner’s mother died of COVID-19 complications.

Former presidential candidate Herman Cain, 74, succumbed to the coronavirus less than two weeks after attending a rally for President Trump in Oklahoma.

We all must take chances in life. Weighing known risks against available guidance and information, we make our choices. When things work out, we know we chose right, or were lucky. When they don’t, hopefully there is consolation in knowing we at least tried to make an informed decision.

The last thing anybody wants is to be the guy or gal shouting, “look at me,” the second before they fall into the abyss.

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