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About a year ago, it was noted in this space that there’s a theory in economics, physics and other fields called the “edge of chaos.” It says complex systems need a balance between stability and anarchy. If there is too much stability in a system, it cannot adapt to changing conditions and survive. If there is too little, the system descends into chaos.

Some people believe the edge of chaos is where creativity thrives and where the best solutions to complex problems can be found.

The Tri-State, the three states and the nation as a whole have found themselves on the edge of chaos for months as they struggle with the COVID-19 situation. It’s unlike any faced by most people, and mistakes were inevitable. Many people hold out hope that a vaccine will be ready for widespread use soon, but “soon” is an elusive term.

If you look around at news events of Tuesday alone, it appears we are getting closer to the edge where we fall into chaos. Although public officials say they don’t want to shut down the economy and everyday life again, it may be happening incrementally with or without their official approval.

Offices in the Lawrence County Courthouse are closing because of the number of positive test results among employees. The prosecuting attorney’s office alone has had nine people test positive. The treasurer’s office and the clerk of courts office have closed to the public. When asked if the entire courthouse could close, Commission President DeAnna Holiday replied, “Maybe.”

In West Virginia, parents of volleyball players in Putnam and Wood counties believe their daughters have been discriminated against because they are not able to play in the state tournament this week while football players have more leeway in getting their games scheduled.

Nationally, hospitals are reporting an increase in the number of people being treated for COVID-19, according to an article in the Wall Street Journal. Hospitalizations for the coronavirus have exceeded the number recorded in the spring, and they are growing most in states that had avoided the problem earlier in the year.

In all this, many people ask what good has come of their inconveniences and their sacrifices. If the adaptations they have made haven’t slowed the spread of the virus, why bother, they want to know. And if some groups are publicly shamed for gathering in large numbers but others aren’t, it raises the question of whether there is one set of rules for one group and another set for the other.

At present we’re stuck in a situation where progress is reversing and the likelihood for improvement is weeks away, if not months. Patience and individual responsibility are called for, along with recognition that things could get worse before they get better.

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