Inexplicably, when the number of Americans who had died of COVID-19 hit 800,000 in early December, the national reaction seemed to be a collective “meh” despite a speech by President Biden who called the number a “tragic milestone.”

Except for families who lost loved ones, few Idahoans commemorated the loss of roughly 4,000 fellow citizens.

That and the high number of people who do not wear masks indoors in public places outside of Blaine County show that the danger of COVID-19 has not registered with most people even after two years of the pandemic. More than half of Idahoans are still unvaccinated.

Blaine County and its cities, however, are outliers with indoor mask mandates and high vaccination rates. Residents should be proud.

Outside this county, only news commentators, health-care workers, disease experts, parents of kids under age 5 still too young to be vaccinated and people over 65 seem to be concerned.

The virus has ravaged the oldest, who made up 75% or 600,000 of those who died. It’s fair to wonder if the collective “meh” is deep-seated ageism that devalues longevity.

It is perplexing, then, why society invests heavily in research that saves and extends lives only to write off seniors when a crisis hits.

Blaine County is a good place to ponder the contradiction. The median age here is 43.2 years, five years higher than the U.S. median, and the pandemic brought in more new residents over 65 than any other age group.

The kindest view of the collective “meh” is that Americans are in shock and will return to their kinder selves when this is over.

The worst is that the pandemic has unmasked a troubling “ism” in the social lexicon that America must confront when it comes to its senses.

“Our View” represents the opinion of the newspaper editorial board, which is made up of members of its board of directors. Remarks may be directed to

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