Two days ago, DeKalb County residents and their fellow Alabamians were “liberated” from the public health order that told us to stay home, except to meet basic needs, in an effort to limit the spread of the COVID-19 novel coronavirus. For the next 14 days, we are part of an experiment to see what happens when we come up for air.

I encourage readers to visit local businesses and spend your money here. I was encouraged yesterday while visiting Hammer’s to see a lot of people still practicing social distancing and wearing face masks. I didn’t feel unsafe being there at all.

Caution remains advised, though, and common sense is always a good idea. I’m pretty sure the governor’s modified order doesn’t encourage going around town licking doorknobs.

It feels great to finally report some good news for a change! I just hope that our efforts thus far will not be in vain if we declare victory before this thing is fully won. It was inevitable that social distancing would become a “victim of its own success.”

The Monday morning quarterbacks are coming out of the weeds to brag that they weren’t never scared of some scrawny lil virus.

The folks who dismissed the pandemic as a hoax or no more serious than the seasonal flu finally have their chance to demonstrate that our shared social sacrifice over the last month-and-a-half has been nothing more than a shamefully overblown, overhyped, overly and irrationally inflated, constitutionally questionable and outright deceptively flawed reaction.

Such opinions should not be omitted from this historic record just because I disagree based on the facts I have from sources I trust.

The skeptics are arguing that most people who catch COVID-19 have mild symptoms and the ones who die are old or in poor health anyway (which is a nice way of calling them expendable). They question whether the death count is accurate and share conspiracy theories about doctors being pressured to attribute deaths to the coronavirus that have nothing to do with the actual cause of death to make it look worse than it is. For what reason doctors would do such a thing, they never quite say.

They speculate on whether it was really all that contagious after all. Some even postulate that we are doing more damage to our immune systems by avoiding exposure.

They criticize the government’s stimulus packages as income redistribution schemes and claim that the actual threat is to our civil rights rather than our respiratory systems. They imply that the shutdown was a left-wing conspiracy to damage the economy in order to harm the president’s chances of re-election. They feel disdain for “the media” above all else, smearing reporters and TV personalities as agents of fear to scare Americans into voluntarily going along with shutting down the entire economy. They dismiss others as mindless sheep.

These claims of vast global shenanigans seem incredibly far-fetched – imagine the level of coordination it would take to pull off such a hoax, burning through trillions of dollars (for what reason?).

Yet the fuse is often lit by something as simple as a person thinking, “Hmm, I don’t personally know anyone who has died from it, so it must not be real.”

Well, the next 14 days offer a rare opportunity for them to prove wrong all of the doctors, nurses, scientists and journalists who’ve been arguing for precautions to save their lives. One of two outcomes will happen. Either cases of the COVID-19 disease will increase (spoiler alert) or we’ll continue to see “the curve” of case numbers leveling out.

Our economy thrives on consumer confidence, and that will remain in short supply until we have adequate testing capabilities and get past the second wave of infections that could hit the country badly later in the year.

The next two weeks should be dipping our tiptoes in the waters before showing off how well we can dive.

The skeptics are saying, “Come on in, you chickens, the water’s fine.”

We’ll see...

Some critics are so stubborn they won’t believe the coronavirus is real and deadly until they show up at the hospital gasping for air. Even then, they’ll only admit it happened if they can blame Bill Gates, 5G or Barack Hussein Obama.

History will decide who was right, what exactly happened, who deserves blame and what they could have done differently or sooner to result in fewer deaths. I suspect that we’ll get the full story around the same time we finally get everyone tested and have a vaccine widely available.

Congress spent $7 million over two years and four months probing the 2012 deaths of four Americans when attackers raided the US compound in Benghazi, Libya. Surely the deaths of 61,288+ Americans deserves at least as much scrutiny. The most significant event faced by the nation since 9/11 – certainly the deadliest since World War II -- deserves public hearings where officials are compelled to provide documents and testimony under oath; the public will have zero tolerance for any attempts to reject congressional oversight.

If this all turns out to be an elaborate hoax, well, I guess the naysayers will get to gloat and call the rest of us fools for being so gullible.

That seems to be what they live for.

— Steven Stiefel is a staff writer at the Times-Journal. His column appears in Saturday editions. Email: steven.stiefel@times-journal.com.

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