We are feeling uncomfortable. Here’s why.

For two solid months, most in the country adhered to lockdown orders. As the economy neared collapse, experts were behind the scenes, developing necessary resources to deal with the novel coronavirus. They did so and we reopened. The streets came back to life, businesses dusted off counters, and we all breathed a little easier.


A little too easily, in fact. Suddenly people were flooding the roadways and gathering with missed family and friends. But it was often being done while not wearing masks nor keeping physical distance. As COVID-19 has sunk its claws deeper into our lives, many have become numb to the feeling. That mindset needs to stop now.

While we sorely needed to jumpstart the economy and we are now better prepared (see A Hurricane Named COVID), it doesn’t mean we are scott-free. The numbers of cases may be manageable right now, but look to be quickly spiraling out of control, leading to yet another lockdown before we’ve had the chance to fully recover from the first.

For those who resist being told what to do and say anything less than N95 masks aren’t effective, we ask you to do your research. As knowledge about the virus grows, the efficacy of masks is becoming firmly established. One key point from the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation said that “33,000 deaths could be avoided by October 1 if 95% of people wore masks in public.”

Make no mistake: Masks save lives.

Tie that to physical distancing and we have a winning formula. So simple. And it hardly costs anything. Compare that to overwhelmed medical facilities. To businesses being shut down and possibly not reopening. To the irreplaceable cost of the loss of a human life.

The death of anybody shouldn’t be acceptable when it’s preventable. We’ve heard so many “I’ve got such a low chance of having it be fatal/serious” or “I’m healthy, I’m young, I’m fine.” I, I, I. Where’s the we? Did you know Sacramento County just reported that nearly half of its active cases are from people under 40? That studies are showing there may be lasting impacts from the disease on young bodies that mimic Kawasaki disease and on the organs of any person who has become infected, even after they recover?

At the base of this eagerness to cast off public health recommendations is a misinterpretation of what freedom really means. This country is based on freedom to a life of opportunity, where we are given the wherewithal to choose our path in life, and supported by laws that erase obstacles that limit us. What has happened is that people believe freedom means freedom from having any limits, from “any kind of obligation or responsibility to … anything. Each other. History. The future. Just common decency. Even just basic humanity.” *

“Don’t tell me what to do” is a just-because attitude that leads to a lack of a social contract, of caring for thy neighbor, of looking together toward a better future. That’s not the way to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It’s the way toward divisiveness (check!), societal ills (check!), and a democracy that shows signs of dissembling (double check!).

Instead of clutching our pearls over being asked to don a simple bandana during a global pandemic, let’s clutch our masks to our faces and head into public only sparingly. Doing any less is a crime against humanity.

* A nod to Umair Haque for his eye-opening essay, How Freedom Became Free-dumb in America.


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