/ Letters / Mask wearing

Mask wearing

May 19, 2020

To the Editor:

Two things are universally true about the coronavirus: Everyone wants to see businesses open and the economy restored, and everyone wants as few people as possible to become horribly sick and die.

It should follow, then, that everyone is willing to make some small sacrifices to help that happen. One of those things is to wear a mask or some kind of face covering when out in public, such as in a store or a somewhat crowded place.

Unfortunately, expert guidance about masking has been slow in coming. Still, there are some basic things we know. First, a cloth mask is not a fine enough mesh to keep the person wearing it from inhaling a tiny virus free-floating in the air. Second, a mask is very good at stopping the tiny droplets of saliva that we eject when we breathe or cough — and those droplets are a primary route of virus transmission.

So, the mask I wear doesn’t necessarily protect me, but it does help protect people I come in contact with. And conversely, the masks those other people wear help protect me. So if we all wear our masks, aren’t we are all safer?

Unfortunately, in my (limited) travels I observe that mask wearing around here is at best inconsistent. The most absurd thing I have observed is a husband and wife out shopping — she has a mask on, he does not, and the entire purpose of the mask is thus defeated. I wonder: Is wearing a mask considered somehow not macho? Others seem to think that to walk around bare-faced is to make some sort of patriotic or political statement.

Another absurd thing I observe is stores that require their associates to wear masks, but only recommend their customers do. Managers and owners of such stores are basically telling their team members: We’re willing to protect our customers from you, but we won’t protect you from our customers. (And, by the way, we won’t protect our customers from each other.)

All of this is nonsense. If we want to reopen the economy, we need to make some accommodation. Most of us have done this in a big way by observing government orders to stay home and thus helping to tamp the virus down. If we would like to buy ourselves a little more freedom of movement, then wearing masks — and that means everyone — seems a reasonable step to take.

I know that COVID-19 cases are rare here in our northern counties. I also know that outbreaks elsewhere have been started by just one person walking around infected, but without symptoms and passing the virus along to numerous others, starting a deadline chain of contagion. All it takes is one lit match to set fire to the tinder. And if that happens here, our elderly population will be at risk and our limited healthcare systems quickly overwhelmed.

As New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has observed, wearing a mask demonstrates respect for other people. Failure to wear a mask does more than show disrespect — it just might end up sending someone to the hospital or the morgue.

I am waiting for someone to give me a logical argument for not wearing a mask when in places of business or otherwise in close contact with people. I have yet to hear one. Masks are not going to help us much unless we all wear them. So, let’s put them on. It’s just not that hard — and it can help us in at least a small way to avoid needless suffering and move us toward a more normal existence.

Ted J. Rulseh




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