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Shawn Vestal: The race isn’t run, but we may already have a winner in coronavirus foolishness

Shawn Vestal (Dan Pelle / DAN PELLE)

The gold has been claimed in the local Olympics of Pandemic Folly.

A repeat drunken driver who works at Spokane’s coronavirus hot spot just put six city cops – and who knows how many others – at risk of contracting COVID-19. From the jail to his job at a Hillyard pasta factory to a crowded sedan full of fellow partiers, he has done his best to be our gold-medal super spreader, while giving the city an example in what not to do.

It may be rash, at this point, to go naming winners for pandemic folly. Neither the pandemic nor the folly is over. This guy, though, has made a strong case to be considered our Michael Phelps, winning in so many different lanes that he’s in a class by himself.

At least we should hope so.

He has outfollied those who crowded into bars last weekend and strolled unmasked through grocery stores. He has vanquished those who cherry-pick bad stats to argue that coronavirus is no biggie, or who make inane social media comparisons to automobile deaths.

He has trounced those who slyly point out that it’s only old people dying, after all, only sick, old people, and those who act as though there is no disease in rural areas, and those who share conspiracy theories online. Of course, he hasn’t defeated the president – whose atrocious stupidity on the virus will require minting an entirely new medal – but in the local heats, he’s tops.

You could, I suppose, make the case that the gold should go to the extremist-led hootenannies at the courthouse, where one woman waved a sign that read, “Liberals are raping the country.” Or you might make an argument for the North Spokane pastor with a toddler’s defiance, who congratulated his packed, maskless congregation for ignoring the emergency order of the “satanic” governor last weekend.

But we already knew not to expect social responsibility from those quarters.

This guy, on the other hand, came out of nowhere to stun the field.

A real Cinderella story.

We’re at a moment where the foundation for our success against the coronavirus is shifting away from emergency edicts and onto the honor system. We’re reopening as our cases are rising in Spokane. Folly is the virus’s friend.

One selfish ignoramus could potentially infect six careful cops, fellow jail inmates and corrections officers, co-workers and by extension their social networks, and all his unknown fellow partiers, to say nothing of anyone else who might have crossed the path of his exhalations.

One hundred selfish ignoramuses screaming at others to take off their masks – as protesters did at the courthouse – can trump 1,000 considerate masked citizens. One thousand selfish ignoramuses who spread falsehoods online can undermine 100,000 people who know better than to believe such nonsense.

Even if most people do the right thing, the virus can win if enough do the wrong one.

It’s like an Electoral College for disease.

Mordecai L. Cochrane works at the Philadelphia Macaroni Co., the site of our largest outbreak of COVID-19 cases. Half the employees have tested positive there, as well as several others associated with the facility.

As such, Cochrane has been in contact with the best resources and the best safety recommendations available as the Spokane Regional Health District has responded. He’s ignoring them all. We should hope neither he nor anyone else he’s breathed on suffers the worst effects of this illness.

A 21-year-old who faces rape charges in Boundary County, Idaho, Cochrane was arrested by police May 20, after officers found him passed out at the wheel of a Toyota Avalon at Longfellow Avenue and Ash Street at 3:30 in the morning, police reported.

He spent 12 hours in jail. The following day he tested positive for COVID-19, and jail officials learned of his infection. The jail takes many precautions to protect staff and those being held, including quarantining cohorts of inmates depending on their booking dates, screening and isolating anyone with symptoms, and sanitizing and sterilizing with a vengeance, said Jared Webley, county spokesman.

This is the first known instance of an infected person being booked into the jail, which is running at about half-capacity since most low-level defendants who don’t pose a public safety risk are not being held.

Five days after Cochrane’s first DUI arrest, he was popped again – this time with six passengers in the Avalon, a sedan with a seating capacity of five.

Imagine the respiratory generosity inside that sedan.

Cochrane was not booked this time because of his COVID-19 status. He’s been ordered to quarantine himself, though his record of compliance thus far does not inspire confidence. Six officers are self-quarantined, and Cochrane’s jail roomie has been isolated, too. No word on the people packed into that sedan, or anyone else.

Not yet, at least.

We’ll have to hope for the best. In the Olympics of Pandemic Folly, results are sometimes slow to arrive.