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Facing the facts about masks

Posted on June 29, 2020 by Sonoma Valley Sun

Every legitimate epidemiologist agrees that by wearing face masks the public can greatly reduce the transmission of Covid-19, yet a significant number of people ignore that advice, even flaunt it. Despite mounting evidence that the recent upsurge in Covid-19 cases is due to socializing by the unmasked, resistance to wearing masks continues.

Why the obstinance?

America’s libertarian strain and its focus on individualism are making the pandemic worse; the United States, with but 5% of the world’s population, now contains 45% of the world’s cases of Covid-19. After successfully “flattening the curve” in many regions, cases have spiked upwards over the past few weeks. Far from setting a positive example for the rest of the world, America has failed miserably in its pandemic response. 

Here in Sonoma Valley we can feel pride in how well we’ve done in keeping the infection rate low, but now is not the time to become complacent or lazy about taking precautions. The recent mandate from Sonoma County’s Health Officer for people to wear masks while out in public leaves little room for interpretation. Unless you’re walking alone in a location without others, you need to be wearing a mask. If you’re walking past others on the Plaza, you need to be wearing a mask. If you enter a shop, you need to be wearing a mask. 

Wearing a mask while out in public is not simply a matter of taking precautions for yourself; it’s about accepting responsibility for the health and welfare of others. Because some people can be infected with Covid-19 but be asymptomatic, none of us – no matter how well we feel – can be sure if we are infected or not, unless we get tested. Even then, there are false-negatives; tests alone are not enough to protect you, your family or your friends. 

It’s remarkable that something as simple and inexpensive as wearing masks has such profound effects on transmission of the Covid-19 virus. Of all the suggested protective measures, wearing masks appears to be the most effective. Their widespread use in other countries has made an enormous difference, but some in America, and Sonoma Valley, remain resistant. 

Yes, masks can feel hot and are unpleasant to wear, interfere with talking and cover our smiles, but they are literally a matter of life and death. These things are no cause for “mask shaming,” however. If you see someone on the sidewalk not wearing a mask, cross the street, or otherwise avoid them. Shopkeepers have the responsibility to enforce that patrons wear masks, but we as individuals are not “health police.” That not wearing a mask has become a political statement is more than regrettable, it’s deadly.

The mask mandate is not governmental interference in our individual rights, or part of an international conspiracy to establish a new world order: It’s an essential health protection measure, plain and simple. 

The pie in the sky of a coronavirus-free summer is just that. Infection rate data indicates that this American pandemic is still in its beginning phase and will be with us for the foreseeable future. Like keychains, handkerchiefs, wallets, and other things we regularly carry in our pockets or purses, you can now add masks. Masks are not fun and can be irritating; we get that. But playing politics with public health is a dangerous game. 

Protect yourself and others. Wear your mask when you go out.

— Sun Editorial Board



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