In the midst of a global pandemic like COVID-19, there isn’t much any one of us has control over.
That feeling of stability is there when things are going right in the world. But when things are going wrong, reality and helplessness tend to set in. I rely on others for my income, health care, food and so much more.
That’s unnerving, as a deadly virus has brought our country and world to its knees and so much is unknown about the future. As the United States has been hit with over 70,800 COVID-19 related deaths in a matter of months and the unemployment rate is predicted to reach 15%-20%, what are the choices I can make to help?
To start, I’ll wear a face mask when I leave my home. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and many health experts have encouraged the public to practice this simple act to help slow the spread of this new and deadly virus.
The CDC reports that cloth face masks made of household materials, not the surgical masks that health care workers need, provide a first line of defense against spreading the new coronavirus. Some of those who have COVID-19 may be asymptomatic, or it may take time for those symptoms to show. As the virus is passed through close proximity, the CDC finds a face mask can trap droplets released when speaking, coughing or sneezing, protecting those around us from a virus we may not even know we have.
Although this seems so black and white, there’s almost nothing that is. Wearing a mask has caused some to call foul, saying it is an affront to civil liberties. Others see not wearing a mask as a matter of life and death and feel personally outraged when they come into contact with someone who could be so selfish. This controversy has started a war of words – and flesh.
The New York Times reports a security guard in Michigan was fatally shot over an altercation with a customer refusing to wear a face covering. The Times also reports that in Oklahoma, a proclamation requiring masks to be worn in public was met with so much outrage it was pulled back to a recommendation.
And some say masks provide an untenable opportunity for racial profiling. In a letter penned to the U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, six U.S. senators called for anti-bias training and guidance for law enforcement regarding masks during the pandemic. The letter tells the story of two African American men in Illinois who were stopped by the police outside of a Walmart and were erroneously told their masks violated city ordinance. Other men have been harassed for not wearing masks. And this on top of health officials saying the virus is disproportionately killing black men and women.
As the federal government has left the decision to wear or not wear a mask up to states and municipalities, confusion is growing. With no clear and consistent guidelines, we’re left to our own devices. Many are making the wrong choice and others don’t feel they have one.
I’m surprised to be writing this article. Who could have guessed that a simple and effective way to protect our loved ones and the community from harm is being met with such backlash and ignorance?
In the few times I have gone out, I’ve noticed many others are not wearing masks. I’ve felt like the odd one out sporting a homemade mask made by my neighbor.
I have the same access to information as anyone else I see out and about. Yet so many with no valid reason choose to not wear a mask or even respect social distancing guidelines.
I could be wrong about these masks. In six months, the guidance from the CDC could change. But I’m not relying on my own knowledge base to be the judge of that, and I’m sticking with what I know today. I’m neither a medical professional nor a health department official, but I trust those individuals and I respect their call.
As local business operations start up again under this new normal, more people will come into contact with one another. Springfield-Greene County Health Department officials say the virus is no less dangerous today than it was yesterday. There is still no vaccine or approved treatment. That control we wish we had is just not there.
But I can wear my face mask. I can respect social distancing. I can limit how often I leave my home. These are things many of you are trying to do, as well, as we work to resume business in the Ozarks. There’s a right way to do this, and a wrong way, and our city and county leaders are watching and evaluating to prevent a spike in new COVID-19 cases.
So, the next time you’re out, please put on a mask. Imagine you are headed into a store full of the people you love the most. If we’re truly all in this together, we must start considering our neighbors as much as we consider ourselves.
Springfield Business Journal Features Editor Christine Temple can be reached at email@example.com.
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