There are some folks who ran around the back roads of the country to buy hand sanitizer, masks and other items needed during a pandemic.

Were they rushing them to the hospital to help? No. Were they supplying them to homeless shelters or to the poor? No. They were stockpiling and selling on eBay and the like.

Just as there was a store in New York where Purell Hand Sanitizer was on the shelf for $79.

They should all be put in jail. Gouging is gouging and is illegal. A pandemic is not the time to try and “get ahead financially,” as one man cited in The New York Times said.

Capitalism is the system we have agreed upon for our financial plan of business, but a system does not come with morals; we do. Whether it is profiting from a virus or putting your thumb on the scale as you measure cold cuts, it is gouging and cheating.

Those who decide to profit on the back of a virus are simply without a moral center and maybe we should all be looking at just what our moral center or North Star is these days.

The extreme fluctuations by politicians between virus hoax to “we are doing the best job ever” is also a form of cheating. By not having taken on-board the flow of scientific information and not preparing, we are being cheated out of a better outcome. We have been misled, and some still believe that we are overreacting. That is the ostrich syndrome when country after country sees cases going up and up in number. And we have yet to begin any meaningful testing.

We are at the convergence of science and political commitment to a false ideal that does not align with science. That is not a good place to be.

No, the virus is not a Democratic hoax. Viruses do not care what party you belong to, where your borders are, if there is a wall or not, what your color or race is. If a virus cared about anything, it would rejoice in the thought that washing your hands, keeping a distance and acknowledging its very existence was being ignored. It would love you not to be tested and to not believe in it. What better way to spread?

Ignorance and blame — as well as gouging and indifference — work to spread the virus and they all wear away at our slender thread of how we care about and for one another.

All of us are going to have to make choices about where to go and when, who to ask into our homes or what things we need to weather this very real storm. The best antidote to all of this is to choose basic decency, civil discourse and kindness — toward ourselves and to our neighbors. Affixing blame to a country from which this comes is irrational, since we could have taken it to them and certainly we could have brought it here. The question is not where it comes from but how we deal with it and how fast we deal with it.

We, as a country, are behind the curve right now, so being proactive in our own lives is all we can do. Helping one another, the healthy helping the sick, the younger helping the older, that is where we find our solace and best selves. And once this is over, get out there and support the businesses which will certainly be taking a hit during this time: restaurants, movie theaters and stores. Believe me, by the time this slows down you will be ready to be out and about.

We don’t know our virus exposure yet; we are not being tested and therefore cannot know if it has already arrived or its extent if it has.

Wash your hands, don’t touch your face, keep your distance, stay home more than going out and be kind to yourself and others. Don’t raise prices to gouge, don’t lie about the virus or politicize it, be mindful of what the CDC and WHO say and less of what politicians say. Check in with real experts every few days to be sure of what is really going on.

Take care of yourself and others and be truthful about the reality of a pandemic. The more we do, the quicker we are likely to get out from under it. Be kind and be well.

Joyce Reehling lives in Pinehurst. She retired here from New York after a 33-year career in theater, TV and commercials.

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