Home Susan Yerkes A good reason to cover up

A good reason to cover up

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To mask or not to mask? Why is that even a question?

There are many strange, disturbing and unexpected things about life with “the Rona.” Six months ago, you only saw face masks worn at Halloween, bank robberies and on raccoons. Way back then, no one imagined donning personal protective equipment to go to H-E-B. Who could have predicted the loss of jobs, mobility, gatherings, birthday parties, and going to restaurants and cinemas, or the quarantining of older relatives behind locked doors and Plexiglas?

Even now, after the enormity of this world-changing pandemic has hit home, the fallout seems surreal.

Just as surreal is the fact that when we should all be working together to defeat a common enemy — the sneaky, spiky novel coronavirus — many have politicized the malady, defying public closures, having “COVID parties” and angrily protesting directives to wear face coverings in public.

I mean, really? Come on, people.

My anti-mask friends are quick to point out government officials “flip-flopped” on mask-wearing early on. That was before they fully understood how infectious and dangerous this virus is. It was before people realized you can be infected and not know it, but still spread the disease.

An infected person may be most contagious even before symptoms appear. Now, we understand the contagion largely travels through the air by coughing, talking or even breathing, so health officials strongly recommend wearing masks in public, especially indoors or near others.

They also encourage physical distancing and frequent handwashing.

How well does all this work? The numbers clearly indicate it slows the spread.  Fewer hospitalizations. Fewer deaths. You don’t do those things just to keep yourself safe. You do them to keep others safe, too. If you are infected and don’t know it, you could kill your friend.   

Something we do know about COVID-19, or any highly contagious, airborne bug: The more people have it, the more people will get it. The less folks are in a position to infect others, the less it will be able to spread. That’s the in-school or homeschool dilemma, fraught with difficult choices.

But, where individual adults are concerned, it seems to me that if requiring a leash and tags for your pets doesn’t violate your rights, I can’t see how mask mandates do.

On the lighter side, face coverings can save women a ton on makeup. It’s also harder to pick your teeth in public. A friend’s 90-year-old mom, suffering from potentially embarrassing denture problems, was delighted to be able to take walks and visit her doctor without having to explain herself.

On the serious side, we all need to stop bickering and blaming.

Dr. Ruth Berggren, director of the Center for Medical Humanities & Ethics at UT Health San Antonio, knows more than most about infectious disease.

I love the way she puts it:

“In this war, we need to fight the virus itself, not each other. … Until we get better drugs and vaccines, our best weapons in this war are masking, handwashing and 6-foot distancing. These are weapons. They are not infringements on our liberty.”

We’re all on the same side in the battle against the pandemic. Let’s stop fighting each other.

Stay well, y’all.

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