Here is a question: Why are there so many wackadoodles fighting any suggestion they should wear a face mask while in public places to help slow the spread of COVID-19?
Some people wear them in crowded public areas because they should, and they know they should as the COVID-19 pandemic again ramps up, threatening to inundate hospital critical care units with burgeoning numbers of new cases daily. Many do not — including at least one Alaska legislator, for crying out loud — because they are, well, openly, unapologetically meshuggeneh, with many believing the push for us to wear masks is a secret government mind-control effort in which, at the end, we are reduced to drooling, mask-wearing toadies.
It should be noted anti-maskers do not seem to mind requirements for shoes and shirts in stores and restaurants. Nor do they much seem to mind anymore that you cannot simply light up a cigarette anyplace you choose or break out a bottle of booze for a quick snort, or that they must wear a seatbelt when they get behind the wheel. Maybe, over time, they simply have become accustomed to those rules. Not so with wearing masks to help slow the spread of coronavirus. The mere suggestion sends them into a chest-thumping tizzy.
If you look, there are shelves of dueling studies to support each side of the question, but a team of researchers led by Texas A&M University recently studied infection rates in China, Italy and New York City before and after masks were mandatory.
Wearing masks in public “corresponds to the most effective means to prevent interhuman transmission,” the researchers concluded in the study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and, along with social distancing, quarantine and contact tracing, is the most likely way to stop the pandemic, prior to development of a vaccine.
That means nothing to the anti-maskers. The government, they will tell you, is out to break our will, make us comply, bury our freedoms. Nobody trusts government less than I. It’s in my DNA to question government motives, but even I do not think for a moment it is out to shred the Constitution by urging, even requiring us to wear face masks in crowded circumstances that prohibit social distancing.
Most of us have heard the supposed negatives about masks: They do not work. They are a bother. You cannot breathe well — and, yes, some people should absolutely avoid them like the plague. Largely though, much of the pushback about wearing masks sounds more like teenage posturing: howls about rights, but the barest whispers about responsibilities.
“This is a free country,” the mask fighters will tell you righteously. “It should be my choice. Even government doctors say they will not help.”
It is easy to understand the ongoing confusion about masks. Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, early on gave the anti-mask crowd ammunition for its war on good sense.
“There’s no reason to be walking around with a mask,” Fauci told the nation on March 8. Now, he says he said that to head off an anticipated drain of personal protective equipment for first-responders. Fauci’s concerns about shortages proved correct as beleaguered staff in some hospitals took to wearing garbage bags when their personal protective equipment ran out.
What does Fauci say now?
“There’s no doubt that wearing masks protects you,” Fauci told the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions last week. “Anything that furthers the use of masks, whether it’s giving out free masks or any other mechanism, I am thoroughly in favor of.”
Seward is requiring them. Valdez is requiring them. Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz rightly has ordered people wear masks in public areas indoors such as in restaurants, grocery stores, salons and public transportation. It largely is unenforceable, of course, but more people seem to be wearing them. A growing number of states are requiring citizens to wear masks in public places. Alaska does not require them, but Gov. Mike Dunleavy is urging masks be worn where circumstances warrant.
That we have not taken to masks across Alaska like ducks to water to blunt spread of the virus — especially by those who may be asymptomatic and not even know they are infectious — is a mystery. Even if not the perfect solution, masks surely do some good. Whatever happened to helping our neighbors? Why not selflessly wear a mask if it could, might, maybe keep somebody else from getting COVID-19, or give you and yours a better shot at staying healthy?
If you are shying away from masks because some wackadoodle says they are part of a government plot, pay no attention to them.
They are, as usual, dead wrong.
Paul Jenkins is editor of the AnchorageDailyPlanet.com, a division of Porcaro Communications.
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