I’m sure everyone is ready to send the kiddos back to school and watch high school football on Friday nights, college football on Saturdays and the NFL on Sundays.

I sure am.

Unfortunately, as of this writing, most of the above may be a fantasy. It remains to be seen how long we’ll be able to watch the PGA, MLB, NBA, NHL and NASCAR – without public attendance, of course.

So let’s quit pretending.

Too many Americans – Arkansans in particular – didn’t wear face masks in public, social distance or wash their hands frequently enough. Too many thought it was a hoax, a violation of their constitutional rights or that they were somehow immune. They infected others with the COVID-19 virus, who then infected others and so on and so forth until the virus is now compounding daily.

Some thought wearing a mask in public was a political statement instead of a dire public health and safety measure to stop the spread of the deadly virus. They didn’t know any of the 145,000 Americans who had died from it.

And that’s where we are. And we continue to pretend that schools will open, making guinea pigs of our kids and victims of our educators and other school staff members – not to mention those at home. If schools do open, teachers deserve hazard pay like front-line health workers.

There probably isn’t going to be any school this fall except online, and we won’t be watching many sports – certainly not high school football. It may start, but I’m afraid it won’t end well.

And we all know where to squarely put the blame. That’s right, the buck still stops there.

So let’s start preparing for the worst instead of lying about it because, as President Donald Trump finally admitted Tuesday, it’s going to get much worse before it gets better – a statement that should have been routinely repeated in March and again in May when states started “opening up” and the virus started to run rampant.

It’s not going to magically disappear.

Just consider: When Gov. Asa Hutchinson closed schools and nonessential businesses back in mid-March, there were no cases of COVID-19 in Jonesboro or Craighead County – zero, zilch, nada. There were only 16 documented in the entire state.

On Thursday, Craighead County alone posted 873 confirmed cases, with 193 still active, 672 recovered and eight deaths. Just 10 days before, Craighead County had 565 cases after increasing 41 since the previous Friday. There were 83 active cases, 475 recoveries and seven deaths.

So, in the matter of 10 days, there were 308 more confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Craighead County, more than double the number of active cases and another death. That’s a 35 percentt increase in the number of confirmed cases and a 133 percent increase in active cases.

With these numbers climbing, it’s hard to believe that kids are going back to school and we’ll be watching high school and college football this fall.

Even if school starts inside school buildings on Aug. 24, how long before even a small outbreak of COVID-19 shuts them down? Even if youngsters who get the virus show no signs of illness – that they are asymptomatic – the risk, especially to teachers, administrators and other school employees, is great. If educators start getting the virus, who will replace them in the classroom? I doubt many substitutes would be willing to risk their health for $80 a day.

In-school attendance during a pandemic – especially the way it’s spreading across the state – would be like playing Russian roulette unless these numbers start dropping.

On Friday morning, there were 36,259 cases of COVID-19 in Arkansas, 7,009 active, 28,864 recovered and 386 deaths. Again, when Gov. Asa Hutchinson closed schools in March there were 16 cases in the entire state.

Let that sink in – March 15, 16 cases, schools closed statewide; July 24, 36,259 cases and schools are going to open Aug. 24. There were 1,013 new cases posted on Thursday and 480 people hospitalized in the state.

We might be watching the NFL in vacant stadiums, but I’m not holding my breath. For me, that would be a huge disappointment because I was so looking forward to the Kansas City Chiefs winning their third Super Bowl in February.

I fear this fall will be the prelude to “The Winter of Our Discontent,” the title of John Steinbeck’s last novel.

Imagine, COVID-19, the flu and pneumonia all percolating at once. Those anti-vaxers are in for a rude reality check.

At the rate COVID-19 is spreading in Craighead County and across the state, some business closures and stay-at-home orders may be issued in the coming months.

While some have claimed the governor has overstepped his powers, they would be wrong once again. Arkansas law specifically spells out the governor’s powers during a disaster, which the COVID-19 pandemic easily fits. The laws have been on the books for nearly a half century and carry the force of prosecution. Short of a court order, no sheriff, police chief, mayor or resident has the right to refuse to comply, regardless of their opinion or belief on the matter.

We’ve beaten bad situations in this country before, but only because we all worked together to defeat the enemy. COVID-19 is the enemy, not other Americans. We all need to do our part. To do otherwise is simply un-American.

Let’s all pray a vaccine comes sooner than later, and we can get on with our lives.

Chris Wessel, editor of The Sun, can be reached at 935-5525, Ext. 250, or cwessel@jonesborosun.com.