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The author says, 'Wearing a mask is tough, not enjoying our regular social outings is isolating, but the cost of not taking these steps is far greater for the individuals and families that are affected by this disease each day.'

PMG PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - A family in Cornelius watches a local parade. The columnist, a health care worker, explains why wearing a mask makes sense for him.Wearing a mask isn't political and it never should have been made a political issue. However, it's important to explain why I wear a mask and why you should, too.

I take care of coronavirus patients in a local emergency room. Recently, yet another individual with coronavirus came into our department. In the name of privacy, I'll refer to him as Joseph, he is 91 years old and lives in a rehabilitation center where he apparently contracted this disease.

When I asked Joseph if it was OK for me to call his wife and update her, his eyes lit up, that was the first expression that I had gotten from him that afternoon. When I called Joseph's wife to let her know he would be staying in the hospital, I learned that she had not seen her husband since March; because of the coronavirus outbreak his facility wasn't allowing visitors. Think about this, no physical contact with any members of your family for seven months. Joseph is a husband; he could be your husband, your father, brother, uncle or grandfather. Joseph doesn't deserve to spend his last few days or weeks alone and away from family. The coronavirus makes this a recurring reality every day.

The older generation has been referred to as expendable in this pandemic, an unfortunate consequence of the virus. Without the resilience of this generation, the United States as we know it wouldn't be around today. This is the generation that grew up in the time of the Great Depression and went on to fight in World War II, Korea and Vietnam. This generation deserves our respect in that it helped maintain the freedoms that we treat so carelessly today.

Wearing a mask is tough, not enjoying our regular social outings is isolating, but the cost of not taking these steps is far greater for the individuals and families that are affected by this disease each day.

We have been given a false choice of not letting the "cure be worse than the disease" when referring to limiting capacity in businesses, schools and churches. The goal of wearing a mask is to reduce the spread of the coronavirus so we can initiate intensive contact tracing, in turn tracking the spread of the virus and limiting the exposure of others will lead to resuming normal activities.

We in the United States have never been subjected to contract tracing on such an expansive basis. But it works. How do I know? Because today none of us are worried about the Ebola virus. Does anyone remember that the 2014 outbreak in Africa spread to the United States and extensive contract tracing efforts by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stopped the spread?

We need to get there, people, so that our families and businesses don't need to continue to struggle each and every day.

Back to why I wear a mask: I wear a mask because every day I will take care of another Joseph, or Jane. But when I leave the hospital, I need to protect you. If, by some unfortunate mistake, I infect myself, I don't want my mistake to cost you your health or life. So, when I go out grocery shopping or looking for toilet paper, I wear a mask, because I don't want you to end up alone and away from your family. And you should wear a mask, too.

And please remember to vote: Vote for health.

Mark Gibbs lives in Lake Oswego.


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