With Long Island now entering Phase 3 of reopening, masks are as important as ever. More people out and about necessarily means an increase in exposure to others and potentially COVID-19. Though what has confounded us is the seeming semipolitical divide regarding masks made to protect each other from the coronavirus. Somehow whether to wear one has become a political issue instead of a health matter.
We get it. Facial coverings can be uncomfortable at times, but the discomfort is worth it for the greater good. Think about it. Women through the centuries have worn many uncomfortable undergarments for the sake of looking good, and men’s ties can be a nuisance but many wear them because of dress codes at work or to impress at special events. Just think, once upon a time, women risked fainting when their corsets were too tight simply because they wanted their waists to look smaller. A mask is much less of a fashion statement, but it has proven to significantly reduce the chances of catching the virus by over 90 percent if two individuals in close proximity are wearing face coverings.
When COVID-19 first hit our shores, information was confusing. All medical researchers could go on were similar viruses and what was going on in other countries. As they watched people snatch up N95 masks that were vital for health care and other frontline workers, it’s understandable that some scientists suggested members of the general population refrain from buying or wearing them.
Then it was discovered that if one wears a facial covering of any type, when sneezing or coughing, the distance droplets travel was reduced drastically. While the mask itself may not protect the wearer itself, it does protect others. Meaning if the majority of people wear them, community protection is increased.
We say majority because even Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) executive order says children under 2 and those with certain medical problems are exempt from wearing them.
When mandatory shutdowns first began, there were concerns that the U.S. economy would be destroyed, and small businesses would take the biggest hit. As we go back to dining and shopping, wearing a mask to protect business owners and their employees, as well as fellow customers, is vital in keeping the number of COVID-19 cases down and keeping local commerce running smoothly.
Let’s also remember to be mindful in restaurants as they begin to reopen, especially since diners can’t wear masks while eating and drinking. We can take extra care including washing our hands to help protect workers, not lingering at tables and perhaps even tipping extra since employees might be working outside in the heat with masks on, not to mention many have been out of work for months.
We are heading into summer, and it seems like all of New York wants to pretend the pandemic was nothing more than a bad dream. We have to remember that cases have increased drastically in just the past few days. Data from Johns Hopkins University shows there were more than 30,000 new cases in the South, West and Midwest just this past weekend. Health officials now seriously have to consider for and prepare for a potential second wave in the fall.
Let’s take the politics out of wearing a face covering. If people can wear something uncomfortable because they feel they look better or to comply with a dress code, then why not a mask. It may not make us look more attractive, but it helps us to keep our neighbors healthy. To us, that takes priority.