Required or not, masks are a good idea. For most people, in most public situations, face masks help limit the potential spread of diseases, especially the highly contagious coronavirus.
No, masks aren’t perfect. There’s not a panacea. Masks don’t replace good hygiene, washing or sanitizing your hands, social distancing or at least not shaking hands and hugging casual acquaintances. It’s important to remember that masks protect OTHER people more than the people wearing them.
People don’t have immunity to this new virus, and there is no vaccine yet. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, the COVID-19 mortality rate is thought to be substantially higher than most strains of the flu, which usually dissipates during summer months.
We heard loud and clear the “don’t force me” sentiment expressed during the four-hour meeting at the Enid City Commission public hearing on a mask ordinance Wednesday evening. And, a majority of the city commissioners agreed.
We also understand the police perspective that a mask ordinance with its many exceptions and judgment calls would be difficult to enforce. But, it’s not impossible to enforce within reason. Walmart will be doing that beginning next week, when both employees and customers will be expected to wear masks.
Oklahoma leader Kevin Stitt, who became America’s first governor to test positive for COVID-19, has not mandated masks and is deferring to local control. Setting an example, Gov. Stitt recently wore a face covering, as did President Donald Trump during a visit to wounded service members.
Mask ordinances are already in place in peer cities of Stillwater and Norman. Tulsa city commissioners just approved a mask ordinance, and Oklahoma City leaders also are considering such an ordinance.
Many employers here in Enid already have various mask requirements for their employees. Enforcing such expectations isn’t foolproof, but even imperfect compliance is helpful — a significant step in battling an unseen disease and preventing a surge on critical care in Oklahoma hospitals.
Not all customers at a store or restaurant will care whether employees handling their food or merchandise are taking public health precautions, but for the many customers who DO care, that mask is a genuine confidence-builder
Masks are a common-sense practice for many situations, but certainly some exceptions are appropriate. It’s not needed if social distancing, eating or drinking, if one is outside or if their job does not allow it. You don’t have to wear a mask if a disability makes it impractical. And you don’t need to wear a mask at home.
Remember, we are in the middle of a pandemic, and at least regionally we are losing the war. While we have much to learn, the most unusual aspect of COVID-19 is that it is highly contagious. Any of us can have COVID-19, be spreading COVID-19, yet not exhibit any symptoms.
We’re not going to be scare mongers — “Mask It or Casket” — but we are advocating for a respectful, practical way help the people around us stay healthy. Like many things, it’s a matter of personal responsibility. Have the respect for the greater good, especially people over age 65 or those who have (whether you know it or not) an underlying medical condition.
As Americans, we have lots of freedom to act and behave as we want. Choosing to wear a mask when around other people in the middle of a pandemic is safe, reasonable and respectful of other people. It shouldn’t require a police officer and a law for reasonable people to act reasonably.
Carrying a mask in your pocket and wearing it in appropriate situations is a reasonable, easy and effective way to show you care about your neighbors in our community.