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Letters: Readers write en masse in support of masks, opposition to Bouchat opinion | READER COMMENTARY

Just wear a mask

The following was written in response to the article entitled “Board member balks at masks” in the Sunday, July 12 issue of the Carroll County Times.

Commissioner Bouchat, you are wrong. Masks help reduce the spread of the coronavirus and the facts support it. There are hundreds of studies and lots of research to support this fact, including one by the University of California, San Francisco.

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From the article: “The latest forecast from the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation suggests that 33,000 deaths could be avoided by October 1 if 95 percent of people wore masks in public.”

You may choose not to wear a mask, just as you could choose not to wear a seat belt or choose disable your airbags. That is your “right” as an American. But along with these “rights” comes responsibilities.

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The responsible thing to do is to wear a mask when you are indoors or in close contact to another person. Studies show that when both people wear masks, the chance of transmission is less.

I'm wearing my mask when I am in stores, or in close contact to other people, even outside.

I'm disappointed that an elected official would be so cavalier about a simple and effective way to keep people safe.

However, after reading Commissioner Bouchat’s opinion piece in Tuesday’s edition of the Carroll County Times in which he blames people’s “bad behavior” for “spreading the virus,” I felt I had to respond. What Commissioner Bouchat claims may be true in some cases, but my husband’s diabetes was not caused by “bad behavior.” Bouchat then goes on to say that people whose “bad behavior” makes them “unhealthy” should just stay home and “protect us from you.” The audacity of that comment! I’m speechless that one of our representatives is so callous and uncaring that he feels the “courageously healthy” need to “carry us forward.” Just like the president, Bouchat is sadly lacking in empathy, as well as facts.

Wear the damned mask!

Martha Hankins

Hampstead

History might see us as ‘self-centered blockheads’

Dear Editor,

I am writing in response to Eric Bouchat’s ill-conceived and dangerous op-ed regarding mask-wearing. He says: “There have been almost twice as many deaths from drug overdoses this year … than the deaths from COVID-19.” What does that have to do with it? I am certain there are plenty of causes of death that outnumber many others. Does that mean we don’t all do all we can to prevent even more deaths? If we follow his logic, since heart disease kills almost four times as many Americans as auto accidents we can choose to disregard stop signs because this is America not China and we have our rights.

The writer of this misinformed piece takes issue with those “attacking healthy people for not wearing a mask” by berating folks with chronic health problems caused by lifestyle. Again, what has this got to do with it since millions of people have pre-existing conditions NOT caused by lifestyle? It sounds like he is saying “tough luck” to them as well.

His statement: “You, the unhealthy people are the spreaders of the virus — not the heathy … people who chose not to wear masks” is blatantly FALSE and irresponsible. ANY of us can be carriers. You, Mr. Bouchat could spread COVID-19 to a number of healthy people as well as an elderly grandparent, a teen undergoing chemo, a child with asthma, etc. Some of them could die, all because you thought your freedom to not wear a mask was more important than their lives. Until a vaccine is developed we all need to wear masks to protect each other and it is your job as a community leader to set an example.

Lastly, I see mask-wearing as a key element in regaining our freedom from the stay-at-home lock-down alternative and rescuing our economy. For if this virus continues to spiral out of control and we as a country keep busting COVID-19 records out the roof, our children will look back on these times and wonder incredulously, “Why on Earth didn’t they all just social distance and wear the masks? All because of politics? What a bunch of self-centered blockheads!!”

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Marcia Leiter

New Windsor

Don’t use leadership role to mislead

Carroll County Commissioner Eric Bouchat, I’m extremely disappointed in your latest rant, published in our local paper.

You are certainly entitled to your private opinion. You, my dear, are not entitled to attempt to sway the citizens who read this media. Our governor, whom I respect tremendously, has issued an order, no, not law, to mask in public. Why would you encourage many, already misled citizens to defy that order?

I really think that, as a commissioner, you should examine your conscience in respect to the leadership role you play in this county. Unless, of course, you are a Trumper, as you are already lost!

Susan Hughes

Westminster

Lifestyle choices aren’t the issue here

The recent self-aggrandizing commentary by District 4 Commissioner Bouchat — appearing in print the same day as a front-page article about the disproportionate impact of the novel coronavirus on Carroll’s Hispanic population — was disappointing and dangerous. He is wrong-headed factually, morally and ethically.

Healthy people are infected by and die from COVID-19 daily. People without underlying health conditions spread it. Poor lifestyle choices are not to blame for every underlying condition.

Some unhealthy lifestyles are not entirely by choice.

Black, Indigenous, and other people of color (BIPOC) are suffering and dying from COVID-19 more than white people. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, reasons can include crowded living conditions, working in essential fields and inconsistent access to health care.

Poverty and obesity in the U.S. are often linked.

Stress can exacerbate hypertension and inhibit the immune system. It can trigger people to turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms (like smoking or junk food), as can trauma or mental illness (often undiagnosed or treatment unresponsive).

The healthy habits that Mr. Bouchat touts are known to be beneficial because of medical science and the hard work of public health experts who are now telling us to wear masks! Professionals advise prevention most important in the face of contagion caused by a novel virus. There is no vaccine or cure or proven lasting immunity. The science is still emerging and there is much we do not yet know.

But the latest, best science we have says to wear masks.

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The commissioner’s messaging on pandemic response is whiplash-inducing. In the past he has expressed great concern for the various negative impacts of shutdowns on people’s well-being; now he seems to suggest that those who struggle should isolate even more.

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This faulty argument implies that those at risk should shoulder the burden for making sacrifices on society’s behalf. It hints that only the fittest deserve to live and thrive. It is ignorant and ill-conceived full of ableist, sizeist, classist, and racist connotations.

The commissioner is an elected official with responsibility for helping to keep Carroll County safe. He has greater access than the average citizen to actual experts and a platform he could use to promote shared personal responsibility. Instead he is misusing the prestige of his office to endanger and insult.

Mr. Bouchat should pause, reflect, and regroup so that he can make more positive and productive contributions to the community moving forward.

Muri Dueppen

Mount Airy

Bouchat shows appalling cluelessness

I feel compelled to respond to Commissioner Bouchat’s recent column. I applaud his success in recovering from alcohol abuse. That is quite an accomplishment! However, having served a 33-year career in public health, I am appalled at his cluelessness regarding the wearing of masks as a key factor in combating the spread of COVID-19. With no proof provided, Bouchat asserts that “healthy people” (by his definition those who have not altered their lifestyle the way that he has) shouldn’t have to wear masks because they aren’t the ones who are susceptible to catching and transmitting the disease. Really? Does he think that all the 3 million-plus Americans who have contracted the virus had unhealthy lifestyles that they could have changed? Studies show that those with pre-existing conditions are more likely to have more severe symptoms and worse outcomes; but I have seen no studies that indicate that they are the only ones who catch or transmit the virus.

Infectious disease experts and numerous studies show that wearing a mask reduces the amount of virus particles that enter the air when a person exhales or speaks. Wearing a mask has been shown to be effective in reducing person-to-person transmission. In addition, although masks do not provide a perfect barrier, current studies show that masks can also significantly lower the number of virus particles that you inhale from others. Like other viruses, the severity of the course of the disease is dose dependent. The more virus particles you inhale, the greater the chance of severe disease.

Governments across the country are either strongly urging mask wearing or making it mandatory. This is not political; it is public health! It is alarming that a person elected to serve our county would have so little concern for the health of the people he represents! There was only one truth in his letter — that our rights end at the point where they affect someone else. So true. Not wearing a mask can easily affect the right of another to remain healthy and alive!

Larry Bohn

Woodbine

We all must do our part

Mr. Bouchat’s recent column shows his vacuous understanding of the pandemic. Suggesting that those who are overweight or in a nursing home are somehow responsible for contracting COVID-19 is not only inaccurate but shows a lack of empathy for those most at risk of complications. While cotton face masks are not as protective as respirators, they are proven to provide protection. We all need to do our part to protect those most at risk, even if that means the mild discomfort of wearing a mask when possible.

Mr. Bouchat wrote, “You, the unhealthy people, are the spreaders of the virus — not the healthy.” This cannot be further from the truth! Although healthy individuals can be asymptomatic, they are still carriers of the virus. Telling “healthy” individuals these inaccurate statements gives them a false sense of security. They can then easily spread the virus to others who may not be able to fight it. His statements also directly contradict the Carroll County government’s recommendations to wear facial coverings in public. We expect our local leaders to have a coordinated plan based on fact, not the theories that Mr. Bouchat is pitching.

In Mr. Bouchat’s column, he is quick to blame everyone but himself for the spreading of the virus. He even stated that, “Most people lack self-control and survive their bad choices thanks to doctors prescribing pills.” Is he suggesting that doctors are somehow to blame? These same doctors are the heroes that are working day and night to protect those who contract the disease. Instead of blaming anyone, put a mask on. While you may be healthy, someone you talk to may not be and could have life-threatening consequences from droplets you spread.

I implore Mr. Bouchat to leave the medical advice to the experts as his lack of understanding how viruses spread could lead to a large and unnecessary outbreak.

William Holl

New Windsor

Masks aren’t perfect but they help

I see Commissioner Eric Bouchat has joined a growing list of people who see the simple request to wear a face mask in public as the biggest infringement ever on their freedoms and liberties. Bouchat can throw out his stats on masks and the virus, and I can throw out mine, and in the end it won’t matter to him. A quick search on Bouchat shows he is a welder by trade. Shouldn’t he of all people realize the importance of masks and gloves? He still has hair to spike up so they must be doing their job within his profession.

Seat belts and airbags don’t prevent all automobile deaths. But they do help save more lives than not. The mask is a simple safety precaution to help slow the spread of a dangerous virus we are learning new things about on a daily basis. It’s not a perfect solution, but it helps.

I think I qualify as one of Bouchat’s so-called healthy people. I’m 36 and you can see me running all over Manchester. So I’m wearing a mask and asking others to wear a mask for your family, friends and fellow Carroll countians.

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Zack Wolfe

Manchester

Don’t make this a battle between healthy, unhealthy

Eric Bouchat’s rambling opinion piece in this paper on July 14, 2020, would be merely laughable if it weren’t for the fact that he is a commissioner of Carroll County — one of the leaders we depend upon to help us deal with this COVID-19 crisis. I suggest that the county commissioners soon schedule a meeting with leaders of our Health Department so that they can be educated with the latest and best medical and scientific advice on how to deal with our health emergency.

This is not a battle of the “Unhealthy” against the “Healthy” as Mr. Bouchat makes out.

Refuting just one of his erroneous ideas, people who appear to be “healthy” may be infected with COVID-19 (asymptomatic) and can pass it to other people. The primary reason for wearing a mask is so that we can help prevent passing any infection if we are infected. Social distancing and avoiding indoor crowded areas are also recognized ways to avoid spreading the virus. His “Unhealthy” people are not the only ones calling on others to wear masks.

The patriotic duty of every citizen right now is to follow the medical advice on how to fight this virus, as advocated by our governor. The right to not wear a mask has no credence given the civic need during this emergency to fight the spread. Be smart. Wear a mask, social distance, avoid indoor crowds. It is time for good, educated leadership in Carroll County to follow this course.

Dave Libershal

Taneytown

Times failed its readers by running column

The Carroll County Times dramatically failed its readers on July 14 with the publication of the column by Commissioner Bouchat. Yes, it was in the editorial section, and he is entitled to an opinion. However, Bouchat made claims that he purported to be fact. Lacking both the academic and professional credentials to lend any credence to his claims, in his column Bouchat makes statements that contradict consensus positions of the medical and scientific communities.

Why the Times would publish such a column, particularly in the absence of fact checking by the editors, is a mystery. Was it in deference to his being an elected county official? His position should have given the Times more pause, not less. There are already enough people in the county who accept a host of misinformation and silly conspiracy theories as fact. By virtue of his position, Bouchat’s words are given more credence by those who accept claims without critically thinking.

Perhaps the Times is embracing the misguided notion that all opinions are of equal value. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, which doesn’t mean that all opinions are of equal value. When experts in a field opine, this certainly holds more weight than the musings of the uninformed. Unlike the silly claims of those who believe that the earth is flat, or that there was a vast conspiracy to fake the moon landing, providing misinformation on COVID-19 has life-and-death consequences.

The Times owes its readers accurate information, particularly on critical issues. Allowing claims that fly in the face of prevailing scientific information in a pandemic is grossly irresponsible. Publishing the sophomoric claims that people’s health determines their ability to spread the virus, or that the use of masks is not a viable means of reducing transmission is a complete abdication of the Times’ responsibility. On this one, Carroll County Times, you failed.

John Carr

Linwood

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