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wearing a mask

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While many are hoping to return to normal after COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, we’re hoping for a return to civility.

Last week a woman we know was attending an outdoor event. Like many, she made sure she put her mask on in the car so she wouldn’t have to fiddle with it at the gate. While walking along the street, with a couple of people in front of her and a few behind, a man in a pickup truck yelled, “Take off your masks.”

Why was this necessary?

On a national level a video, showing actor Ricky Schroder harassing a Costco employee because he asked the actor to wear a mask, has gone viral. Even though the actor later apologized for his behavior, why did he get in the face of someone who was just doing their job?

Why did he feel it was important for him to force his belief system on someone who was just being cautious during a major health crisis?

Yes, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended that vaccinated people can resume activities without wearing a mask or physically distancing themselves, except in certain crowded settings and venues, such as when taking public transportation. There is also another caveat, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal or territorial laws, rules and regulations apply. This exception also includes local business and workplace guidance.

The new CDC guidelines were adopted by New York State May 19. However, people who are not vaccinated still need to wear masks. Unfortunately, not everyone has the integrity to be honest about not being vaccinated.

As we move forward, there also will be people who, even though they are vaccinated, are still anxious, especially since there is a small chance they can still come down with COVID-19 to some degree. Let them wear their masks without being harassed.

Listen, we understand: No one was prepared to be enlisted to fight in a war against an invisible enemy — a virus that spreads without warning. But we American soldiers this time around weren’t asked to give up our everyday lives to risk those same lives on a battlefield. We were asked to hunker down to decrease the chances of people getting seriously ill, even die, from a new virus. We were asked to live life differently so our hospitals wouldn’t be overcrowded, where patients would have to wait for care, or health care professionals would be put in a position where they would need to decide who to treat.

While many feared our rights would be taken away from us, Americans still have all of their rights intact more than a year later after we were asked to stay home as much as possible and mask up when we left our homes.

It’s a shame that a health crisis had to be made political, making our country even more divisive. It’s time to realize that everyone’s journey has been different during the pandemic, and everyone’s fears during this pandemic varied. Some were fortunate that the virus didn’t touch their lives while others lost loved ones.

Every once in a while it pays to take a step back and consider how others feel, maybe even respectfully ask them where they are coming from in the situation.

We still need to practice patience as we slowly but surely come out of this pandemic, although we may be subject to a new, unsuspected virulent strain. Showing a little respect for others and being a bit kinder never hurts to make things a little more bearable.

METRO photo

By Fr. Francis Pizzarelli

Father Frank Pizzarelli

It’s hard to believe that we are almost at the midpoint of the summer. The pandemic has changed our lives forever. We will never be able to go back to yesterday. However, we have a powerful opportunity to build a better and safer tomorrow.

At this point in our history, it is not a time for impulsiveness and polarization; rather it should be a time for profound reflection and for building new bridges. It is not a time for building walls, but rather a time to look for more creative ways to transcend our differences and to build a stronger foundation on our American values and ideals.

By our silence, we are complicit. More than ever before, we need people to stand up and give voice to reason and to social justice for all. Individually, we need to lead by example. Our failure to do this will cost the loss of innocent lives. Simple things matter like wearing a mask in public, social distancing and washing our hands frequently.

We have painfully learned how fragile all life is and how some simple practices can make the difference.

Unfortunately, our leadership on both sides of the aisle have failed us. The pandemic should not be a political football, but rather an opportunity to come together for the sake of the common good.

It should not matter what political party is leading us when it comes to protecting all Americans. They should be courageous enough to lead us and call for unity; they should be advocating and working for healing; instead of leading the charge for divisiveness and chaos.

Every state in the union is facing the difficult decision of when and how to open our schools. The health of our children, of our teachers and of our administrators is at stake; so is the quality of American education at every level.

We need to act cautiously and deliberately and not be seduced by rhetoric that is not grounded in science and good health practices. The next generation of leadership is at stake.

Regarding our schools, let us trust our leadership, let us encourage creativity and let us think outside the box without compromising quality education. Let us be mindful if we begin with a hybrid system of learning that many of our children will not have access to tablets and the internet and not every parent can supervise at home. It takes a village to raise and educate a child.

It is time to reclaim “we the people” and build a better tomorrow for all Americans no matter their color, race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation or social status.

Hope does not abandon us. We abandon hope. More than ever before hope needs to become the anthem of our souls!

Fr. Pizzarelli, SMM, LCSW-R, ACSW, DCSW, is the director of Hope House Ministries in Port Jefferson.