Guest Editorial: Wear A Mask To Protect Others Not Because the Government Mandates

By Recker McDowell —

To mask or not to mask.

That is a question for many when they venture out during the COVID-19 pandemic. Protective and cloth masks will be a question for workplaces, schools, sporting events and other settings as the economy and life emerge from the Coronavirus and ‘shelter in place’ orders.

The pandemic has seen mixed and confused messages about wearing masks including from the U.S. Surgeon General, World Health Organization and U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Go into the ‘essential’ businesses that are still open and you will see some employees and customers with masks and gloves and some without.

Some businesses and workplaces are requiring masks of both workers and customers. Some communities are looking at or starting to try to mandate the wearing of masks in public settings. A county judge in Houston has a ruling mandating masks be worn outside in eastern Texas. The ruling faces a legal challenge.

We are likely to see more of these political and legal standoffs as protection of public health continues to be weighed against reopening the economy and civil liberties.

Wearing protective and cloth masks can help limit the spread of COVID-19 especially to those most vulnerable such as seniors and those with pre-existing conditions. The masks can also give some piece of mind to frontline workers at stores, restaurants, other businesses, and of course medical settings. Fear and anxiety are significant parts of the Coronavirus’ impacts whether it be worries about health or jobs. We know how serious and unprecedented the virus is both to public health and the economy. We do not need more fear and stress. Enough has been stoked by the media, elected officials, or others.

We are just concerned about potential mandates coming from the government or courts including telling us we must wear the masks or do other things in order to go outside, shop or go back to work. The U.S. Constitution and state constitutions are still living and breathing documents. George Orwell also provides some relevant reading on this topic.

Civil liberties should not just be jettisoned during and after the pandemic. They should be appropriately balanced with public health and the need to re-open the economy. Some of the political and cultural ironies of personal choice and individual freedoms are not lost in this debate.

We see the need for many of us to wear the cloth and other protective masks. We can help protect our neighbors and give some very much needed piece of mind to our collective public health as states and communities figure out when to reopen the economy.

We just do not want to see the government and elected officials who work for us overstepping their bounds and stepping on our individual liberties.