It’s rare to receive as much reader feedback about a single topic in a single week as we have in response to Commissioner Eric Bouchat’s opinion piece arguing against “healthy” people needing to wear face masks in public.
It’s rarer still that every single reader writing in to us would be in agreement on that topic. But they were.
Let there be no doubt. The debate over whether to wear face coverings in public in this coronavirus pandemic should not be a question at all. Debate is warranted in so many arenas, political or otherwise; public health is not one of them.
Commissioner, we will agree with you on one point only: that it is important to debate with facts rather than emotions.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention makes clear that all people — young and old, sick and healthy — are at risk for contracting COVID-19. The difference between a teen and an octogenarian is how negative their outcome is likely to be after they test positive.
People are more likely to die of a drug overdose than COVID-19? Maybe so, but drug overdoses don’t spread from one person to another without their consent. Nor does obesity, smoking or alcoholism. There’s no comparison to be made here.
Simply put, asking members of the community to wear a cloth mask, in the name of protecting our neighbors and colleagues from this deadly pandemic, is not an infringement of any individual’s rights; it’s common sense. And it’s really not so bad.
What would be truly bad, though, is the increases in cases and preventable deaths we’d see without policies requiring masks — among the “essential worker” who has no choice but to show up to work to support their family, encountering customer after customer at the checkout line; the caretaker shopping for an elder family member who’s especially vulnerable to the virus; the elderly individual who has no choice but to try the grocery store early in the morning, in the hopes of avoiding crowds; and so on.
Certainly we wouldn’t want someone to suffer as a result of a visit to a local attraction like the Carroll County Farm Museum, which we were disappointed to learn will not be requiring visitors to wear masks when it reopens next week.
To not take such an easy, basic step of wearing a mask to protect not only yourself but, crucially, others represents an abdication of all sound moral footing. We — as a county, as a state, as a nation, and as inhabitants of this precious Earth — must act with cooperation and good faith to protect one another to get through this historic crisis.
There should be no room for debate here because the reality of the situation is morally uncomplicated and so, so simple. If wearing a mask does any good in helping prevent more people from contracting and dying of this virus — and we trust medical experts the world over that it does — then we must all do our part for the public health.
The unveiling of the Carroll Forward campaign this week came at an opportune time. Through it, all sorts of county leaders — except, of course, Bouchat — sent a clear message that “Wearing a cloth face covering properly ... is one of the most important actions we can take to protect our community,” as Ed Singer, Carroll County health officer, put it.
Anyone not interested in doing their part to protect our community is putting our neighbors and colleagues at risk.