Vice President Mike Pence calls it “a matter of patriotism.”

Ten days after dismissing data on rising cases of coronavirus infections as a media distortion, Pence warned of a “precipitous rise in cases” and urged Americans to take personal responsibility in limiting further transmissions.

“Now is the time for everybody to do their part,” Pence said. And the serious little doctor, Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, added that “you have a responsibility to yourself, but you also have a societal responsibility.”

Whether we call it a matter of patriotism, self-preservation or loving your neighbor, from where I view it, from the top down, Americans are failing to take responsibility and follow the guidelines for stopping the spread. Vice President Pence is finally wearing a face mask, though President Trump still refuses. What kind of patriotism is that?

As of last week, case numbers were rising in 29 states accounting for 62% of the U.S. population. The national death toll on July 1 was more than 140,000 and growing by more than 1,000 every day.

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Clearly, the virus is still raging in this country.

Why? It appears that many Americans refuse to follow the two main virus guidelines: wear face masks in public and follow personal distancing. I cannot avoid going to the grocery store, the pharmacy, or the hardware store where I see all the employees wearing masks. Also, I hear announcements every few minutes reminding customers to maintain distance between one another. But fewer than half the customers wear masks. In some places where masks are required (like medical and dental offices), some refuse and scream about their personal freedom and constitutional rights and through tantrums. One young friend of ours wearing a mask was sneered at by a bully who said, “Wearing a mask? Are you afraid of a little germ?”

Reasons for not cooperating fall under the categories of indifference ("the virus is no big deal"), political reasons, stubbornness or inconvenience (“I’m not comfortable in a mask”; “it fogs my glasses"; “I can do whatever I want"; “it covers my beautiful nose, lips, mouth and smile"; “it’s not cool"; "only democrats wear masks"; "they’re for wimps"; "I’ve already been tested.”).

They’re not worried about themselves, and they don’t care that they’re putting others at risk. When did we stop caring about our neighbors? Aren’t we all in this together? We have done such a terrible job of controlling the virus in America that Europe does not want Americans coming over to spread our growing infection although they are allowing visitors from other countries.

But everybody is entitled to a bit of happiness. So, some stay home and limit the people they see and where they see them. Outdoors is best, but others observe no limitations at all.

They’re pushing back into crowded bars. Risky? In Michigan, 90 cases of the virus have been linked to a single bar. It could have been a single concert or a single crowded beach.

I am concerned for your safety, but also for my own. I’m in several categories that combine to put me at a high level of risk: I’m a male in my senior years, I have a health history, I have positive blood, I go to the grocery store, pharmacy and hardware store, and I’ve been to a high school graduation reception, mostly indoors. I’ve had a few breakfasts at restaurants eating outdoors.

I understand that over 80% of COVID deaths have been in folks over 70 with pre-existing health conditions and that a majority of them have been men. I intend to protect myself by staying as close to home as possible, staying away from crowds, keeping my contacts outdoors, wearing a mask when I’m indoors in the presence of other people and generally following the guidelines. I don’t intend to be one of the thousands still at risk of dying between now and the end of the year.

My immediate health goal is to stay alive until I vote in the presidential election of 2020 – plus one day to enjoy the result of the election.