I Don’t Need to Wear a Mask…
“I Don’t Need to Wear a Mask.” That’s what a friend of mine said last week when we were talking about coronavirus. He went on, “My employer and my government don’t have the right to take away my freedom like that…I am going to live my life the way I want – go to the gym, restaurants, and whatever else I want to do. And no one is going to tell me otherwise.” This conversation got me to thinking.
Every one of us has been impacted by the coronavirus. For me, it’s been mainly an inconvenience, but I know several folks for whom it has been much more than that. My sister is a small business owner. She is struggling to stay afloat. She might not be able to. My friend (an ER nurse) got coronavirus. Her symptoms were bad, but she survived. Her coworker was not so lucky – a mother in her mid-50’s and previously healthy. The nursing home in my hometown lost 28 patients and one employee. These are all stories that we’ve all come to know all too well. Coronavirus is bad. Bad for us in every way. And there may be long-term impacts that we have yet to learn about.
So what do we do about it? It turns out that one simple act can do a lot. WEAR A MASK. And yes, it’s that simple. Two of the most prominent scientific organizations in the world (The National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America and The Royal Society) have both studied the problem and concluded that by simply wearing masks, we can not only slow, but reverse the spread of the coronavirus. Among other things, these studies looked closely at what happened in New York and Italy after it became mandatory for people to wear masks. It turns out that wearing a mask had the biggest impact on not just slowing the spread of the virus, but actually reversing the spread – turning the curve down. (See https://www.pnas.org/content/early/2020/06/10/2009637117#F2, and https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/10.1098/rspa.2020.0376)
Here in South Carolina our number of cases has spiked considerably in the last few weeks. We’ve gone from averaging 200 new cases a day at the end of May to averaging 650 new cases a day in mid-June. But if we were all wearing masks, this would not be the case. The opposite would be happening. We would see fewer new cases per day as time went on. This is not just flattening the curve, but actually reversing the slope of the curve.
In case you’re a South Carolinian who is really up in arms about your personal rights, I might encourage you to think about a few things. South Carolina has a seat belt law that has been in place since 2005. It is summarized here: “…The … law,… gives law enforcement officers the authority to stop a driver if the officer has a clear and unobstructed view of a driver or occupant of a motor vehicle not wearing a safety belt or not secured in a child restraint system.” See – https://scdps.sc.gov/buckleupsc/safety_belt_law#:~:text=South%20Carolina%27s%20safety%20belt%20law,federal%20law%20for%20its%20use. And not wearing a seatbelt primarily impacts the person not wearing it. Not the rest of us.
South Carolina also has a law in place that might surprise you. The Governor has the right to order you out of your house in the event of an emergency – like evacuations in a Hurricane Zone. Section 25-1-440 of South Carolina law states: “Additional powers and duties of Governor during declared emergency… (7) direct and compel evacuation of all or part of the populace from any stricken or threatened area…” See the full bill here: https://www.scstatehouse.gov/,/t25c001.php Again, not evacuating to safety from an impending hurricane primarily impacts the person not evacuating. Not the rest of us.
This notion of viewing coronavirus through the lens of “No one has the right to take away my freedom” seems a bit silly. That’s not the point. None of us wants to see people suffer and die. None of us wants the economy shut down. What we should all be asking is, “What can I do to help my fellow Americans? What is my responsibility to protect my fellow citizens and get our country up and running again?” It’s not that hard. Wearing a mask is our patriotic duty and it will make all the difference. And that will free all of us up to go back to doing the things we all like to do.