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home : opinion : opinion January 19, 2021

9/23/2020 8:09:00 AM
Who Was That Masked Man?
In 2020, it's not the Lone Ranger, but someone who cares about protecting others from a deadly disease

Wayne Howard
Staff Writer


It's simple, really--although the anti-mask folks aren't going to accept it. Some of them have decided that wearing a mask during the pandemic is a political statement, and they have decided to make it a political statement that they refuse to wear one. Others have proclaimed it's their 'Constitutional right' not to wear a mask and consider any such idea as an intrusion on their rights (we checked, and haven't yet been able to find anything about masks in the Constitution). There are others who make the claim--which medical experts have said is totally bogus--that wearing a mask can be hazardous to your health. Then there are those who claim a 'medical exemption.' It is true that a few, a VERY few, may truly have a medical reason not to wear a mask--but it's certainly not anything close to the number who are making that claim--most of them based solely on their own statement and not any advice from a doctor.

If you have a legitimate medical reason not to wear a face covering, then please understand we're not picking a fight with you, and contrary to what some have said, I am not a 'bully' for calling out those who are not wearing a mask and who do NOT have a legitimate medical reason not to wear one.

I have reported before (accurately and based on solid data evidence) that North Carolina's 'go slow' program has had much greater success in controlling the spread of COVID-19 than other states who reopened earlier. Our death rate from the disease is half that of South Carolina, Georgia or Florida. Our number of confirmed cases is also much smaller related to our population than theirs.

There are, of course, strong arguments for reopening further. The closures and restrictions have no doubt caused severe suffering for many businesses.

The PPP (Payroll Protection Plan) loans helped some--but not all. The state has announced a Mortgage, Utility and Rent Relief (MURR) program, administered by the North Carolina Department of Commerce, that will provide up to $20,000 in relief funds per qualifying business location for businesses that have not been able to operate during the COVID period. Applicants can apply for up to four months of mortgage interest, rent expenses, and utility expenses. Applications to the program should open next week and will be handled on a first-come, first-served basis.

Even so, it's obvious that some of the current restrictions are still such that many businesses can't survive long-term without some changes. While many restaurants are obviously not following the guidelines for reduced seating, those who are can't continue to operate long-term without being able to serve their full capacity. Retail stores are suffering from the reluctance of many shoppers to risk infection while shopping.

As is true with many things, there are no easy answers.

One thing, however, is abundantly clear: the 3Ws (3Ms if you're Hispanic) WORK! North Carolina's success compared to other Southern states is one piece of evidence. Another is a report last week from the South Carolina DHEC that said that those Palmetto State municipalities and counties who had implemented a mask mandate have seen a much lower rate of new cases than those who have not.

If I may, let me share an analogy that I believe appropriate: you go to the doctor--perhaps for a mammogram if you're a woman or a prostate exam if you're a man, or a colonoscopy--and your doctor tells you there may be a problem and further testing is necessary. After the additional tests, you're told that you have cancer--and you're going to have to have surgery, undergo chemotherapy and then radiation. Obviously, your lifestyle is going to change for awhile. It's not what you'd like; it's what's necessary for you to get better. If all goes well, after going through the surgery and followup, you may get to return to normal living--but for now, that's not a wise choice if you want to live.

We, the United States of America, are in a similar situation with regard to the coronavirus. We'd all like to return to living as we did before 2020, what we have called "the Lost Year." But to do that, we must first do the things that will help us to survive the pandemic. Wearing the masks and doing the other things that have been proved to help slow the spread of the disease is also the best way to make it possible to reopen our businesses fully.

It's NOT political; it's the proper way to respond to a public health crisis. Wearing an approved N95 or KN95 mask may help to protect you--and wearing other face coverings will help to keep you--perhaps unknowingly--from spreading the disease. Yes, it is a way to show you really care about others (or conversely, to show you don't if you choose not to wear a mask).



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