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Staff file photo by C.B. Schmelter / Flanked by Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke, right, and Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger, Gov. Bill Lee, center, speaks during a press conference in Chattanooga on April 14.

Once thought to be a pathogen that primarily attacks the lungs, COVID-19 has turned out to be a much more formidable foe for us. It is affecting nearly every major organ system in our oh-so-human bodies: kidneys, heart, intestines, liver and brain.

What's more, those who've had the virus and have antibodies — once thought or at least hoped to be immune — seem now not to be. "There is currently no evidence" of that protection according to a WHO announcement last week. So much for "herd immunity" — no matter the number of people who die.

Amidst these new discoveries, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger are advancing toward reopening commerce — restaurants, retail stores, more. That reopening is occurring now.

We've said before, and we say again that this is beyond dangerous and stupid.

Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke is right when he says the state order letting Chattanooga restaurants reopen Monday 'fails' to meet safety standards amid COVID-19. The ground shifted under Berke and Chattanooga on Friday when Lee back-tracked on public and private assurances otherwise and negated municipalities' authority to reopen at their own pace.

Meanwhile cases and deaths continue to mount in Tennessee, Georgia and Florida — the three red states whose governors could not resist the partisan pull of Donald Trump nor the backlash from his red-state supporters if they even consider slow-walking Trump's rush to pretend the coronavirus will just "disappear."

Protesters jumped into Nashville streets, bedecked in rally-like red, white and blue. And while they may contend they have received no funding from shadowy right-wing funders, that doesn't mean those funders aren't blanketing the Facebook posts that our well-meaning "don't-tread-on-me" types see every day. No, folks, you didn't get paid. But Facebook did.

Tennessee on Sunday reported its biggest one-day jump in confirmed coronavirus cases and could do so again when the weekend's ramped up Chattanooga drive-through tests results become available. On Monday morning, the state already was nearing 10,000 confirmed cases. At least 184 people have died in the Volunteer State.

Things in Georgia are even worse. On Monday, the Peach State looked well on its way to 25,000 cases and was knocking on the door to 1,000 deaths.

And yes, we know some of this is, in part, because testing finally became more widely available. Of course, widely available is relative: Even now, only about 1% or less than 1% of most of our populations has been tested. And we don't know how many had the virus and were never confirmed. We don't know how many actually have it right now and have no discernible symptoms, yet they are going back to work in restaurants to make and serve food. Doctors do know, without a doubt, that the virus spreads before symptoms make us feel sick.

Suffice it to say, this is dangerous and stupid.

And that dangerous and stupid starts with Donald Trump, who continues daily to show us why he should be removed from office.

On Thursday in his daily coronavirus-briefing-turned-campaign rally, Trump (who has now distanced himself from his false claims that a malaria drug would treat the virus) has now wondered aloud about using household disinfectants whose labels claim to kill virus in a minute. Taking that claim to a whole different level, Trump floated the idea of "an injection inside" of such cleaners to "clean" the lungs.

Medical doctors were quick to denounce it. Both Lysol and Clorox put out statements saying the products were not suitable for consumption or injection under any circumstances.

Then on Saturday, Trump dissed social distancing, even while millions of Americans face historic unemployment to accomplish that very necessary distancing. Without any notice to West Point, and despite the fact that the 1,000 graduating seniors have already been scattered across the country, Donald Trump announced he would speak at the West Point commencement ceremony. (After all, Vice President Mike Pence got some headlines for addressing the Air Force Academy, and we all know Trump hates to be upstaged.)

Trump explicitly said he hoped the West Point ceremony would look "nice and tight" because he does not like the look of socially distanced graduations.

Vote Vets put it this way: "Donald Trump has a habit of treating the military as props in his political game, often at the expense of the safety of our veterans, service members, and those in uniform — and this is just the latest in a long line of inappropriate and disrespectful acts meant to bolster his image."

Chattanooga's city leaders have a better and saner approach. Even though Berke's thwarted plan was to keep restaurants, retail and other businesses closed for a little more time to let the new testing show us where we are, he told reporters Monday afternoon that city help will still be available if some of the local business owners remain too worried to reopen right now.

COVID-19 and its closings have resulted in more than 10% of the area's workforce filing for unemployment, and the City Council is looking to put $1.8 million toward utility and rent payments for citizens, as the requests for help grow due to the economic impacts.

The City Council is expected to vote Tuesday on a series of ordinances that would earmark the money — a combination of city funds and anticipated federal coronavirus relief funds.

We applaud the city's empathy and more cautious approach.

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