editorial

To wear or not to wear

By LAURIE STUART
Posted 6/24/20

To wear or not to wear a mask is the question.

With it, we weigh whether we approve or disapprove of some outside authority telling us what to do. With it, we weigh our sense of whether we are …

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editorial

To wear or not to wear

Posted

To wear or not to wear a mask is the question.

With it, we weigh whether we approve or disapprove of some outside authority telling us what to do. With it, we weigh our sense of whether we are more responsible to the whole or more committed to our personal sense of freedom.

With it, we communicate whether or not we accept that there is a pandemic in our country and that we need to seriously pay attention to it in our daily lives. (As of June 22, 120,000 people have died from it.)

For some, wearing a mask grates on our sense of freedom and individuality. For others, not wearing a mask threatens our sense of safety and protection.

Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, says the fact that wearing a mask brings up these questions is specifically based in our nation’s traditional emphasis on the rights of individuals, which distinguishes the United States from many other countries. In an interview with the Washington Post, he notes “because of the individual spirit of our country, we don’t listen to authority. It is the American way.”

But when you are dealing with infectious diseases, he says, “a small percentage of people who don’t comply can have an impact on the entire population.”

And there lies the question about masks: to wear or not to wear?

Is it nobler to make our stand that no one can tell us what to do? Is it our duty and responsibility to figure out how we can adapt to the habit of wearing a face covering to protect others and protect ourselves when we are out in public?

In full transparency, I choose to wear a mask. Sometimes I can get halfway to the post office and realize that I have forgotten my mask. Sometimes I go back, and other times, when it’s some odd hour where I do not believe there will be many people on Main Street, I continue on my way without one, maintaining physical distance from people always. We make choices like that all the time—we weigh risks. And it seems that, in this time, we struggle with whether we need to weigh risks as individuals or weigh risks as a community.

From my perspective, rather than becoming polarized over face coverings, we would be wise to look at our events and gatherings and figure out what is safe behavior.

Truth be told, our economic future depends on that sense of security. Our regional promotional agencies—Pocono Mountain Vacation Bureau and Sullivan Catskills—have offered their own “protection promises,” putting forth that each area has taken steps to make it safe for visitors.

And yet, sometimes we can just get so amazingly stubborn that we refuse to even consider what we might do in our own gatherings to be safe. “Don’t tell me what to do,” we insist. We dig in our heels. We take the pandemic lightly. We let down our guard.

Rather, we would do wise to look at our private and public spaces and continue to be thoughtful about how we gather. Life and community are not going to stop, but we can figure out ways to gather safely.

I know there are some who believe that we are not actually in a pandemic and that the cure is worse than the disease. Or that only people who have weak health are affected and therefore they should take additional precautions.

However, there is so much that we do not know about this disease. To repeat Fauci’s warning: When you’re dealing with infectious diseases, a small percentage of people who don’t comply can have an impact on the entire population.

To me, mask-wearing is about safety and statistics. It’s about adapting to a new protocol because there is a virus that is living in our environment, even if it’s hard to wrap our heads around that.

Fauci theorized that the “disparate responses to the virus among people in the United States reflect a feature of the virus itself: Its effects are wildly variable. Some people remain asymptomatic after infection. Others become severely ill. Some die. That can be confusing for people.

“The nature of the disease makes you confused. The nature of the disease sets it open to multiple different interpretations of how serious this is and, with that, how serious you should be taking the disease,” Fauci said.

But the one thing that isn’t confusing is that our public health officials are clear: This virus is spread by droplets that come from our mouths. And face coverings, physical distancing and handwashing cut down the spread.

We need to pay heed to that and not become immediately insulted and feel infringed upon when having to implement safety procedures. And when we are (isn’t it our nature to complain?) let us examine our immediate reaction and reflect on the situation we find ourselves in: We are living in a period of an active pandemic.

I hope, as we gather in summer (outdoors is much safer than indoors), that we do not ask those who do have weak immune systems to simply stay home. I ask that we consider what is best for the whole.

I think with the right attitude and the consideration that we live in a time of pandemic, we can have our freedom and our safety, too.

To wear a mask is to make the community safer for all.

That, I believe, is also the American way.

Here is the mask tutorial if you want to make a mask at home.

Comments

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Ruth

To me, refusing to wear a mask is like drunk driving. You don't do it in order to protect yourself and others in your community.

Thursday, July 16