If you’re one of those newspaper readers who starts on page 1 and reads in sequential order, then you might have taken a while to get here because the front-page COVID-19 story gave you pause and cause for concern. At least, I hope every reader pores over that story and ponders the implications.

Our neighbors across the lake in Laurens County are quite literally in a state of emergency and things do not look much, if any, better on this side of Lake Greenwood.

On Friday, DHEC released its daily pandemic report, which showed Greenwood County racked up 155 new positive cases. That, following days of numbers in the 60s and 70s. Perhaps as or more disturbing was the news that Self Regional was at 98.5% capacity. Read that again. Self Regional was at 98.5% capacity. For perspective, there were 203 beds occupied and only three — three — available beds. Of those 203 occupied beds, 60 were for COVID-19 patients.

Ah, but there’s plenty of space some people would contend. There’s an emergency room, there’s an intensive care unit for people who are really bad off, right?

OK, I’m not sure how that can be or should be comforting. But here’s the deal. Self had 38 ICU beds occupied as of Friday’s tally and 16 available. Of those occupied, 16 were COVID patients.

For added perspective, the report showed there were 19 patients on ventilators, 12 of whom were COVID patients. That left 12 ventilators available.

Now, if you’re one of those who doesn’t think masks matter, who thinks you have your right to do as you please and not be told to wear a mask, you are probably still unimpressed with those numbers. After all, you’re fine, right? Or maybe you tested positive but had really mild symptoms, so you think COVID-19 is akin to nothing more than a cold or a little bout with the flu.

And so it goes that you have gone about your business as though there is no pandemic. You’ve entered buildings with signs that say masks are required, only to remove the mask once inside. You don’t distance yourself from others in the stores you visit, you push the mask into your pocket or pocketbook until you absolutely have to put it back on. Maybe you even go to places where there are gatherings of like-minded people.

OK, so now let’s consider another scenario. Let’s say the ER is pretty much full today. Weather of late has probably resulted in more sickness and there’s always a chance that rain and wet roads have resulted in wrecks that sent some to the hospital with injuries.

Now, let’s say Friday’s one-day report is not really an anomaly but rather an indicator of how much worse the pandemic is hitting Greenwood County. Let’s say the occupancy rate creeps even higher. It wouldn’t take much to take away the three beds that were reported as available Friday. And maybe that ICU no longer has 16 beds, either.

So what, you ask?

Well, let’s say your spouse, one of your children — someone close to you — is stricken with a significant illness. What do you do? Well, of course you love this person and want him or her to get immediate medical attention. You either call an ambulance or take them to the hospital yourself, right?

A visit to the emergency room is your first step. And then you are told things are rather dire, but there are no rooms, no beds, no ICU beds available. Plus, medical staff is stretched to or beyond its limits.

Suddenly you find yourself and your loved one in a heck of a predicament. They’ll do what they can in the ER. For now. Maybe a bed will become available. Or maybe you’ll have to accept that your loved one is going to have to get transported to another medical facility. If there is one nearby that can provide the necessary treatment and isn’t already at full capacity.

Or maybe another scenario to play out in your mind would be that your lax attitude about the pandemic has led to you or that loved one being exposed to COVID-19. High fever. Extreme difficulty breathing. But no available beds in ICU, no ventilators.

And all because you chose to be selfish. You chose to pooh-pooh this pandemic and ignore the simple admonitions to wear masks in public, wash your hands frequently and social distance.

If you still think that masks and such are just hooey, then I think you’re just plain selfish. Maybe you don’t care enough about your own health, but it’s sad — tragic, really — that you cannot show care and concern for others’ health, most especially those you claim to love the most.

Not to be cold, but is your individual right not to wear a mask really worth seeing your loved one’s obituary on page 4 of this paper? Lord knows we’ve published far more than we’d like, far more than might have even had to be published.

Whiting is executive editor of the Index-Journal. Contact him at 864-943-2522; email rwhiting@indexjournal.com, or follow him on Twitter @IJEDITOR. Views expressed in this column are those of the writer only and do not represent the newspaper’s opinion.