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New Year’s Resolution No. 1: Be like the firefighters and mask up | COMMENTARY

Governor Larry Hogan speaks to the press about how the coronavirus pandemic is continuing to affect Maryland while wearing a "Wear The Damn Mask" mask. November 23, 2020
Governor Larry Hogan speaks to the press about how the coronavirus pandemic is continuing to affect Maryland while wearing a "Wear The Damn Mask" mask. November 23, 2020 (Pamela Wood/Baltimore Sun)

One can sense the eye-rolling out there: Is this really going to be another editorial about the need to cover one’s mouth and nose in public settings during the COVID-19 pandemic? Or wash one’s hands? Or keep appropriate social distance? To which, we can happily reply: Why yes, it is. Because reminders of lifesaving practices are not unlike a mother’s love: best when offered unconditionally and frequently. And, in case, you had not noticed, New Year’s Eve approaches, and it’s time to finalize your list of resolutions for 2021.

You know you need to do this and why. The virus is highly contagious, it will take months yet for the vaccines to begin protecting the wider population, and you have an obligation to yourself, to your family, to your friends and to your community to try to limit the spread as much as you can. Don’t take our word for it. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Public Health Service, leading epidemiologists and Gov. Larry “Wear the Damn Mask” Hogan are in agreement on this point. The dissenters are mostly in the crackpot territory. More than 5,500 Marylanders are among the more than 326,000 Americans who have died from the virus.

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But in case there are still doubters, please consider the recent findings in Howard County where officials decided to test for COVID-19 antibodies in the general populace and in the county’s public safety departments. The presence of antibodies proves someone has been exposed to the virus. What did they find? Firefighters, police and others who just happen to scrupulously follow these best hygiene practices as part of their job had a much lower infection rate than the average county employee or resident despite their very public jobs. It wasn’t even close. Less than 2% of 600 public safety workers tested positive for the antibodies. Other government workers came in at 3.5% and about 3.2% of the county has so far been diagnosed with COVID-19 (which doesn’t even include people who had mild cases but were never tested).

Look, we understand coronavirus fatigue. And all the attention given vaccinations may cause some to believe they can let their guard down. Don’t be among them. The life you save may be your own. Just as firefighters wear proper gear before entering a fire, they take appropriate precautions during a pandemic. Be like a firefighter. Mask up, wash up and keep at least 6 feet of distance from others. If that sounds like a scolding parent, well, thanks, we’re flattered by the comparison.

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The Baltimore Sun editorial board — made up of Opinion Editor Tricia Bishop, Deputy Editor Andrea K. McDaniels and writer Peter Jensen — offers opinions and analysis on news and issues relevant to readers. It is separate from the newsroom.

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