Thursday, July 30, 2020

Be smart. Mask up! -- July 30, 2020 column


Near a neighborhood park in Alexandria, a yard sign reads: “Don’t be Stupid. Make America Healthy Again. Wear a Facemask!”

The sign is bipartisan -- half blue and half red -- and diverse. At the bottom an assortment of faces wears masks.

Back home, Dr. Stephen Hahn, commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, is on TV, telling me: “Wear a mask.”

“We have the power – the American people do – to slow the spread of this virus,” he said Thursday on NBC’s Today show.

All over social media, celebrities post selfies wearing masks and use the hashtag #wearadamnmask. It’s hard not to get the message.

More than 150,000 Americans have perished from COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, and more than 4.4 million people in the United States have been infected.

With the economy in distress, everyone wants to get to some sort of “new normal” life, whatever that may be, but the virus shows no sign of easing its vicious grip on the United States.

There’s no vaccine or treatment yet, and polls indicate many people worry a vaccine developed at “warp speed” may be unsafe. So states, companies and individuals hunker down.

Google announced Tuesday it would not bring employees back to their offices until next July at the earliest. It was the first big company to delay reopening that long but likely won’t be the last.

Meanwhile, the chasm grows between those who can safely work at home and those who must return to a dangerous workplace.

It would be easier to fight the disease if people broke out in a bright red coronavirus rash, but those without symptoms pass the disease to others.

And that’s why the tried-and-true advice for stopping the spread still holds. Wear a facial covering, keep six feet of social distance and wash hands frequently.

We know if we are asymptomatic and wear a mask, it helps protect others. If others also wear a mask, we protect each other.

Many stores, restaurants and other establishments now require customers to wear masks – for which millions of us are grateful. Don’t bother calling me a “sheeple,” easily led by the government. I’m not buying it.

Even President Donald Trump finally wore a mask. He says he usually doesn’t need one because he’s tested frequently, unlike most Americans. He and anyone he comes in close contact with receive their results quickly. Most Americans must wait days or a week for results, which renders contact tracing ineffective.

And that brings us to Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas. The anti-masker was tested Wednesday before he was supposed to fly on Air Force One with Trump.

When his test came back positive, Gohmert said he “can’t help but wonder” whether wearing a mask and taking it on and off somehow caused him to breathe in the virus.

“We don’t have any evidence that’s the case,” FDA’s Hahn said. “Our data show people should wear masks.”

Gohmert said he’s “all in” on hydroxychloroquine, the anti-malarial drug Trump has again been touting, despite it’s having been discredited by medical experts as a treatment for COVID-19. The drug can have serious side effects, affecting heart rhythms.

In the wake of Gohmert’s potentially infecting his staff and other members of Congress, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi ordered members to wear masks on the House floor except when recognized to speak.

I get that Americans hate being told what to do and masks – or their lack -- have become a political statement. We’ve seen the videos of unhinged people in stores going ballistic when asked to put on a mask.

But there’s no constitutional right to infect the front-line hero who rings up your chips and beer. It’s no show of personal liberty to infect your grandmother. Remember, 80% of the people who have died of COVID-19 are over 65.

Not wearing a mask is almost as dumb as attending a COVID-19 party because you think COVID is a hoax, as a 30-year-old man in Texas reportedly did. Shortly before he died of the disease, he told his nurse he’d made a mistake.

So, please be smart. Wear a mask. You might save someone’s life – and someone else might save yours.

©2020 Marsha Mercer. All rights reserved. 30


  1. This column is so important and so well put together to make the case for masks. We need, as you point out, to be sensible and patience. I am a member of three choral groups, and we have been told it might be a year and a half before we can sing again. But the wait will be worth it.

    1. Thanks, Dan. The pandemic is teaching all of us patience. It's a hard lesson.

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