THOMPSON: Why are so many people not wearing masks in public? - InfoNews

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THOMPSON: Why are so many people not wearing masks in public?

June 01, 2020 - 12:00 PM

Here’s a simple, irrefutable fact...a truth that is always a truth...no matter where on the planet you might be. Wearing a mask of virtually any type - manufactured or homemade - makes sense during this pandemic. Fewer people become infected...fewer people die.

This is not debatable. It is not open to question. It’s a fact! The COVID-19 virus is spread person to person...mostly through droplets that we send through the air from noses and mouths when we sneeze, cough, talk and breathe.

There is less chance of the coronavirus being transmitted by an infected person touching something - say a grocery item - and then someone else becoming infected from touching that object.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control website states: “It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object, like a packaging container, that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but we are still learning more about how this virus spreads."

That’s true...so it makes sense not to play touchy-feely with every apple in the produce section before deciding on one. Dare I say, common sense?

And while I’m glad most people understand the importance of social distancing - staying two metres apart - I’m dumbfounded why some fight the idea of wearing a mask? And it doesn’t have to be an N95 mask. Any mask that prevents you from spraying droplets works.

It makes sense. How do we know?

Well, while keeping two metres apart makes sense...we aren’t static bodies. We move around. And that sneeze - with tens of thousands of microscopic droplets hanging in the air - on aisle four in your grocery store stays in aisle four for several minutes. How many people walk through this infectious, virtually invisible cloud. Who knows? But we do know those shoppers who do go home to their families...who then go to work and school...increasing the risk of infection to others. Hmmmm...the question remains...why not wear a mask?

As the economy and life re-open and people venture out, it’s more important than ever that we don’t spread the disease by simply being careless...or worse...by being partisan. Some idiots in the United States...almost all Trump supporters...refuse masks because Democrats wear them...and their hero Donnie eschews them.

We have all suffered a couple months of isolation, so we have a vested interest in not undoing our efforts. People have died. Businesses have gone under. That’s why I wonder why wearing a mask - here and everywhere - isn’t a bigger thing.

Last week, as I grocery shopped in Vernon (wearing a mask), I asked several people who were also donning masks, “Why do you wear a mask?” The answers didn’t vary. Ruth Weir, a resident of Predator Ridge, was typical when she said with raised eyebrows, “If you really care about others...you wear a mask. I don’t like wearing it...it steams up my glasses...but I don’t like possibly infecting and killing people.”

The majority of Canadians aren’t wearing masks when they’re out an about...even though as business owners and employees...many must wear them at work. They seem to care enough when the government orders that behaviour in order for them to do business and earn money...but not care enough on their own volition to potentially save someone’s life when they’re otherwise out in public. Odd...and sad...in fact, tragic.

How willing are we to sacrifice a family member to COVID-19? Do you care less about your best friend...your neighbour...maybe a total stranger in another community? Where do we draw the line of simply not caring? We wouldn’t kill grandma...but what if we don’t know someone...is it OK?

Again, let’s look at the facts. Hong Kong has 7.4 million people...and from day one those folks wore masks. Hong Kong didn’t make it political or ideological...far too many remembered the SARS epidemic in 2003 to get caught up in politics in yet another matter of life and death.

So, what happened? Well, consider that Vancouver is the most densely populated city in Canada with 5,493 inhabitants per square kilometre. Hong Kong is almost five times more densely populated...with 25,719 inhabitants per square kilometre.

Hong Kong has had just over 1,100 cases and four deaths from the pandemic. And yet, some are selective about facts and truths. A teacher told me last week that a friend of his has another friend living in Hong Kong, and that person said the World Health Organization’s numbers are inaccurate.

He offered no source for that...anecdotally his friend’s friend just doesn’t think it sounds right. Hmmm? Apparently, it’s some kind of Hong Kong/Chinese conspiracy...or maybe it’s reality...and it simply isn’t convenient and doesn’t fit the “we-don’t-need-a-mask” narrative?

So, again, why are so many people here not wearing masks? Why are our health officials and politicos not insisting? Because of some inalienable right? Because people can’t tell others in a democracy what to do? More questions than answers.

If we’re all in this together...maybe we really should be all in this together. You know, give a rat’s ass enough about others to not only flatten the curve...but save thousands of people from dying.

We have a long way to go with this pandemic...we’re maybe in the second inning of at least nine innings. COVID-19 will make it to the Okanagan in bigger numbers...it’s inevitable. Wishing it away doesn’t work. When people visit here from other places...and that will happen at some point...the risks increase and so will the number of COVID-19 cases.

We’re not even close to the 60 to 80 percent herd immunity number that represents a point where infections are substantially less likely to turn into large outbreaks. In comparison, New York has the world’s largest coronavirus outbreak, but even there only about 20 percent of the population have been infected.

Given that...wearing a mask doesn’t seem like something to get our knickers in a knot over.

Stop listening to goofy people who never make sense...cue Donald Trump...cue talk radio...cue Facebook...cue your less-than-brilliant-I-can’t-be-bothered-with-facts brother-in-law.

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, now recommends wearing a mask...after dismissing the idea two months ago. Better late than never. But why are we waiting...trying to still debate whether the earth is flat?

Scientists say unless about 80 percent of a population wear masks...more people are otherwise infected and more people die. Any right to not wear a mask should end when it means more people suffer...and die. I’m sorry, but any right to make a statement about our independence ends when our behaviour endangers others.

Simply keeping two metres apart is not a substitute for wearing a mask. Again, we’re not stationary...we move...coughing, sneezing, belching, breathing...and people walk behind us and across our paths...breathing in what we breathe out.

It’s quite simple really. Do we care enough about others to protect them? So far, whether by ignorance, or just a “you-can’t-make-me” attitude, most people aren’t wearing masks.

Let’s recognize that as a society, we are dependent on each other. If a pandemic doesn’t prove that...what does it take? The indisputable truth is the virus spreads less easily when everyone wears a face covering...no one dies if no one spreads. Practice social distancing, wash your hands and buy or make a mask...and wear it.

— Don Thompson, an American awaiting Canadian citizenship, lives in Vernon and in Florida. In a career that spans more than 40 years, Don has been a working journalist, a speechwriter and the CEO of an advertising and public relations firm. A passionate and compassionate man, he loves the written word as much as fine dinners with great wines. His essays are a blend of news reporting and opinion.

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