Iowa saw a spectacular act of selfishness on Thursday, one made all the more stunning by the fact it came as people are trying to pull together in an effort to limit the spread of COVID-19 and its toll on the state.

While public gatherings are being discouraged in no uncertain terms, hundreds gathered in Wayne County to attend a horse auction. The auction proceeded under the guise of an agricultural event, but the ties were some of the flimsiest we’ve seen.

The horses involved, and those for similar events planned in other communities, are clearly not used for farm work. These were not horses that would later pull plows or otherwise contribute to the nation’s food supply. It was the “Midwest Trotting Horse Sale;” a the sale of horses that never lift a fetlock in a field.

Worse, at least one car load of people was turned away because a passenger in it was showing clear signs of being ill. The people in that vehicle were willing to place hundreds of others at risk, as well as others those people come in contact with, to buy a horse.

There can be no question those involved knew the risk they were taking. They actively ignored calls to cancel the auction. They advertised it and drew in people from several states who had to actively defy shelter-at-home orders to get to Iowa.

Such selfishness is diametrically opposed to what Iowans and all Americans are being called to do right now. This virus kills. It spreads with remarkable speed. It is a truly equal-opportunity threat, willing to strike regardless of age, creed, or any of the other petty divisions humans use to divide ourselves.

In the face of such a threat, we are being asked to limit contact with others. We are being asked to stay at home as much as possible, avoiding opportunities to become infected or to infect others. It is the one tool we have that stands a chance of truly limiting the number of cases.

There have been some tentative signs that it is working. But we are not nearly to the point where anyone can point to clear gains. Not in Iowa. Not in the U.S. Not yet.

Cases are still increasing. So are deaths. Iowa stands a chance of being able to keep this pandemic from overwhelming our hospitals in the way it has other areas. But not if actions like those at a Wayne County farm on Thursday are tolerated.

Gov. Kim Reynolds banned further auctions of the sort that took place this week, and it was the right thing to do. If this week proved anything, it was that neither the sellers nor the buyers were willing to take that step themselves.

Condemnation for acts like this auction is appropriate. It’s not where we want to leave off this editorial, though. Instead, let it stand as a reason for each of us to commit to personal responsibility. Let it be a reminder of why each of us has a personal stake in containing this virus, and that each of us can take steps to do so.

Iowa is not known for selfishness. This is not what our state’s reputation is. Let’s live up to what others have long seen in us.

Let us be better.

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