Pastor says the pandemic is like driving: Distancing and masking are analogous to wearing a seat belt and watching your speed

Paul Prather of Mount Sterling, a Pentecostal minister and former Lexington Herald-Leader religion reporter who still writes a column for the paper, has a Facebook page with a diverse set of friends and followers. Recently, he asked them, “Are my wife and I alone in still taking precautions against covid-19? I’m beginning to feel as if we are. Are you wearing masks and practicing strict social distancing or have you returned to your pre-pandemic lifestyle? Either way, what’s your rationale? . . . I’ve ever experienced what I feel now—that those around me could not care less whether they kill me. That the lives of those who are older or have chronic illnesses apparently mean nothing.”

Prather reports in the newspaper, “The responses weren’t what I’d anticipated, in volume or content. What I learned from my Facebook friends (mostly) lifted my soul.” He estimates that 98 percent those who responded said they wear a mask, but suspects that “way more than 2 percent of my friends aren’t wearing masks or social-distancing now, if they ever did. Apparently, for whatever reasons, these folks didn’t feel comfortable declaring themselves.”

That’s what Kentucky Health News reporter Melissa Patrick found this month when she interviewed shoppers in the parking lot of Walmart on Nicholasville Road in Lexington. “Most who weren’t wearing a mask also didn’t want to be interviewed, and of the few who did, most didn’t want to share their name,” she reported. “But every person who had a mask on and was asked for an interview agreed to it and all but one gave their name.”

Prather writes that he has the impression that “hardly anybody was taking precautions,” but “After my post, I realized far more people are acting cautiously than I’d imagined. . .. The reason it seemed they weren’t there was that—duh!—they weren’t there. That is, they weren’t the folks cramming into Walmart or Lowe’s or massing on Florida beaches. They were home.”

As for his own attitude, Prather says he approaches the pandemic much like driving — an inherently risky proposition but one that can be managed safely.

“Any 4,000-pound machine hurtling down a road is a lethal threat. People die or are maimed in crashes every day. So I wear my seatbelt. I obey the speed limit (kind of, more or less). I don’t drink and drive. I don’t text while driving. I maintain a comfortable distance between my vehicle and the one ahead of me. If it’s raining, snowing or icy, I slow down. I hope to decrease my odds of having—or causing—a wreck. I want to protect you and me alike,” he writes.

“This is how I approach wearing a mask, social distancing and hand washing. I do what I can. I don’t quake with fear. I see it as using good sense and being a good citizen. If you want to risk your life by getting drunk and driving 90, or by failing to take reasonable precautions against covid-19, yes, theoretically that’s your right. Until you start endangering others’ lives. That’s not your right.”
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