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At this point, here in the middle of COVID Summer, it's past time to get on board with a mask

In the initial days of the coronavirus in North America, the Center for Disease Control and the World Health Organization both were lukewarm on masks as a key element to fight the spread. But that mistake was driven by a false sense of security because our initial infection rates were low, and the desire to essentially save masks and other protective elements to health care workers.

Then masks became a political divider (as if we needed another) with Republicans taking them as an affront to the mantra that the federal government was handling the crisis just fine, and the perception that Democrats were using them as a walking billboard for progressive liberalism superseding personal liberty. Then there was that American exceptionalism that gets in our way sometimes. Masks were for the smog regions of China, right, not the beautiful USA.

So, the masking of America continues to take its sweet time.

However, at this point, here in the middle of COVID Summer, it's past time to get on board with a mask. Essentially all rational leaders of both political parties are now encouraging masks and recognizing their importance — even though, across the nation, some are inanely fighting local efforts at making them mandatory.

The CDC and WHO have long changed their stance on masks. The primary driver of the change in a more unanimous front from experts to wear masks is the inability to know who has the virus and who can spread it. The medical field determined that both pre-symptomatic and asymptomatic people could transmit the disease.

The masks, as we should all know by now, block droplets emitting from our mouths as we speak, breathe heavy, cough, etc. If we have the virus, whether we are sick or not, there's much, much less of a chance that we spread it than if we aren't wearing a mask. Masks also help protect the wearer from others infecting them.

Experts have suggested that if 95 percent of the nation wore masks in public, then 33,000 American deaths could be spared by Oct. 1. Other than a stay-at-home shutdown — which no one wants — near 100 percent mask wearing is our best weapon against the virus.

The latest great comparison on the ups and downs of requiring masks right now — was it Tom Hanks who put it out? — is a strong one. During World War II, the English were told to turn their lights out at night to make it harder for the Germans to bomb their community. Probably next to no one responded indignantly, barking that they had the right to keep their light on, to hell with the safety of their neighbors or fellow countrymen. 

Slipping a mask on to make you, your neighbor, your family or your fellow man more safe isn't any more difficult that keeping your home dark at night.

Americans are raised to believe that their opinions matter. That's one of the powerful, uplifting, beautiful things about being an American. But we too often think our opinion is just as valid on a specific topic as that of an expert in that specific field. However, the expert's opinion is based on experience, research and education, while our is too often pulled from our backside or stolen from some internet comment. Not all opinions are created equal.

The experts, scientists, people whose jobs it is to know such things, suggest that if 85 percent of the public wore masks, we could get on top of this virus in about a month or. What is supposed to happen in a month or so? Schools could start in a somewhat normal manner, our national obsession of football could kick off, but also the weather starts cooling and people move indoors and the flu season starts. Time, for sure, is of the essence. As we approach the final days of July, it may be too late to save fall as we know it. But if we mask up, our odds improve.

Two months ago, as we prepared to move into Stage 1 of reopening Oregon, I used this space to encourage people, especially guys, to buck up and wear a mask out in public, even if it made us all look a little goofy and less macho. That column had a lot of tongue in cheek, efforts at humor, an attempt to bring a little levity to the serious situation of COVID-19.

But that's also when there was single digit number of COVID cases in our community, and statewide and even nationally, we had flattened the curve. We were making great gains and all that was left was to squash that virus into nothing. 

But in the U.S., through June and July, all of that freedom we enjoy, all of that liberty and power of our own opinions, backfired. COVID has exploded. Two months ago, I didn't know anyone personally who had been tested. Now, I know people who've gotten COVID, know people who've had to quarantine, and I'm nervous, like we all should be, that at any time, any of us can come  down with it or pass it to someone. 

Like the scientists behind the CDC and WHO whose opinions have morphed a bit, I've learned things along the way. We all have, haven't we?

Do your part to fight this world health crisis, the one large enough to threaten the globe but small enough to be at your front door.

If you are interacting with people outside your family unit, if you are within six feet of them and are not wearing a mask, then you are acting selfish and ignorant. So, please, get a mask and wear the thing.


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