I’m very afraid I’ll be collateral damage in a war for which I didn’t sign up.
I'm pretty sure none of us expected to be soldiering through shots fired from dueling sides of the mask battle. I really don’t know how doing something most scientists agree can slow the spread of COVID-19 has somehow become a hill upon which some could die. For real.
I can’t believe that the tensions between the masked and unmasked have morphed into hand-to-hand combat. The initial flare-ups were scream fests similar to what happened in Home Depot when the unmasked would-be customer yelled at the employee who told him he’d have to leave if he wouldn’t put on a face covering. He did, but not before hollering that the other customers were “sheep” for following the store’s policy. That seems tame compared to the customer who spit on an elderly store patron because she asked him to wear a mask. So, I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised when last week a customer drew a gun on a fellow shopper when she demanded he put on a mask. He refused, telling her the pandemic was a “hoax.”
I’m scared that these people will become more unhinged now that retail shops, restaurants and grocery stores across the country have adopted a mask-only policy. Walmart even has a new TV ad detailing its new mask rules.
Recovering COVID patients have issued hospital bed warnings to non-believers, but their painful experiences and the rising numbers of infections in hotspots have not persuaded the recalcitrant to wear face coverings. What should be a public health protocol is now viewed by many as an infringement on personal freedom — part of a deepening divide buoyed by the president, who until last week was the Resister in Chief. The president, who had long characterized mask-wearing as “politically correct,” did an about-face in his first coronavirus briefing in several months. Pulling a mask out of his pocket for emphasis, President Donald Trump urged Americans to wear masks, saying, “Whether you like the mask or not, they have an impact, they’ll have an effect, and we need everything we can get.”
WGBH News contributor and medical ethicist Dr. Art Caplan said he is skeptical of the president’s apparent new shift, noting, “People should not watch what he says, but what he does.” Cynics like me will note that Trump’s new public acceptance of face coverings comes as multiple polls reveal that most Americans trust the infectious disease experts more than him. Also, his newfound embrace of mask-wearing stops short of issuing a national mask order.
But several new studies show masks are extremely effective in controlling the spread of coronavirus. One, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, revealed that people with no symptoms shed a lot of virus through their nose and mouth. Masks helped block the infected aerial particles so those they infected were less sick. At the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation based at the University of Washington, scientists say if 95 percent of Americans regularly wore masks, the number of coronavirus deaths would drop by 30 percent. That’s especially significant when you consider that the scientists project 200,000 Americans will die of COVID-19 by Oct. 1. However, the death toll is climbing quickly — already near 150,000 dead. I am scared that we’ll add 50,000 more a lot faster than they estimate — a body count that doesn’t have to be.
How many mothers, children, grandparents, and friends have to die before nonmask wearers are convinced this is not a joke and they are not immune?
How many preventable casualties yet to go in a pandemic made worse by a war over masks?