If The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences’ latest COVID-19 predictions are even remotely accurate, nobody will have to worry about wearing a mask in public come October.

We’ll all be locked in our homes; there won’t be anywhere to go anyway.

All this debate about wearing a mask in public and our elected officials hemming and hawing about not wanting to adopt ordinances that would actually enforce such simple behavior will be moot.

If Arkansans keep refusing to wear face masks in public, by the end of September, Arkansas will experience about 20,000 new COVID-19 cases a day, UAMS reported in its most recent forecast July 3.

That’s right: 20,000 a day.

The number of COVID-19 cases in Arkansas on June 30 topped 20,000, doubling the number in just over three weeks.

Come October, hospitalizations are expected to be at 2,794, with 838 intensive care cases and 586 people on ventilators, UAMS reports. And it will likely get worse.

But hey, it’s your constitutional right not to wear a mask in public. I guess when all the businesses are shuttered, unemployment skyrockets and everyone is forced to stay home, your constitutional right not to wear a mask will have been won!

After all, the government can’t force you to wear one in your own home, right? Of course, that’s if you’re not in the hospital on a respirator or worse.

And who will the public blame for this monumental debacle?

Well, those misguided constitutional rights folks will be lumped together and ridiculed for their foolishness, but mostly it will be our leaders who failed to act. That obviously includes President Donald Trump, but mostly it will be our state and local leaders – Gov. Asa Hutchinson, Mayor Harold Perrin and the 12 members of the Jonesboro City Council.

Maybe Craighead County Judge Marvin Day should step up and get the quorum court to pass a mask ordinance for the entire county and look to Sheriff Marty Boyd and his staff to start enforcing the law.

While that may seem a huge leap in expectations, there will be more than enough blame to go around come October when we’re all forced to stay in our homes with nowhere to go except grocery stores, which will no doubt have to impose rationing of what little goods will be available because the supply chains will have been broken.

With 20,000 new cases each day in Arkansas – 200,000 in 10 days – hospitals will be overwhelmed. Schools will long have been closed, the high-strung youngsters cooped up at home with mom and dad, many of whom will have lost their jobs.

High school, college, maybe even NFL football? Forget about it. Sports are not going to happen, just like every other event that’s already been canceled this summer and fall.

But, hey, you didn’t have to wear a mask in public because it was inconvenient.

Now is not the time for politicians to dillydally. It’s time for real leadership. Adopting an ordinance that’s weaker than Jonesboro’s fireworks ordinance will have the same effect as the Fourth of July – zero compliance and zero enforcement.

I wonder what our ancestors – our grandparents and great-grandparents – would have thought about our inability to fight this domestic enemy. The Greatest Generation gave up just about everything to defeat the Axis powers in World War II. All able-bodied men of age went to war around the globe and their wives, girlfriends and sisters stayed home to build the war machines that helped secure the victory.

Most food, goods and services were rationed or nonexistent, but they were patriotic Americans, doing whatever it took to win the war.

But today’s bone-spurred constitutional rights folks won’t even wear a mask in public to help stop the spread of a disease that’s already killed 133,000 Americans – more than World War I or the Korean and Vietnam wars combined.

However, science tells us, if you examine UAMS’ latest forecast, that with modest increases in mitigation – most people wearing a mask in public – the simulation shows 12,000 daily new infections by the end of September. With almost complete compliance with mask wearing in public, the simulation shows significantly fewer new daily infections of about 6,000, with a similar pattern with respect to daily deaths.

In other words, wearing a mask in public is absolutely the most patriotic act anyone can do during these scary times. It’s not rocket science – like what it took to win World War II. It’s just a face mask.

As President John F. Kennedy was famously quoted: “Ask not what can your country do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”

Translation: Wear a mask. Even a child can figure that out.

For those who refuse, our elected leaders need to act swiftly to strictly enforce wearing masks in public – before it’s too late.

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