The Daily Escape:
Hideaway Beach, Kauai, HI – photo by alohabaltimore
The message from health officials and local governments seems simple enough: Wear a mask in public to help control the spread of the Coronavirus; and the majority of Americans do. But a recent Pew survey showed that 15% only wear masks sometimes, while 20% said they don’t wear masks at all.
When the virus hit, we scared everybody into staying home. Then, we worried about the impact on the economy, so we pushed our governments to reopen too early. Finally, we decided that wearing masks would protect us from the virus after saying they weren’t that effective.
Most people want to do the right thing, but far from everyone. We’re no longer a “can do” country. Now we’ve become more like: “won’t do”.
Mask wearing has become a tribal badge. Trump mocked mask wearers for appearing weak. He’s said wearing a mask is a political statement against him, so it’s no surprise that mask refusers are more likely to be politically conservative. That’s an ominous trend when new coronavirus cases and hospitalizations are increasing steeply in some red states, the very states where mask-wearing mandates are least likely to be adopted.
The mask refusers have also allied with the anti-vaxx’ers in a “you’re not the boss of me” stance versus the government. As Kris Kristofferson said, “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose”, but with Coronavirus, that freedom to not mask up gives you plenty to lose.
And it gives the country plenty to lose as well. Wrongo wears masks in accordance with his state’s laws. Apparently, that makes Wrongo a liberal.
This story from Oregon shows the depth of the problem. A trooper of the Oregon State Police refused to wear a mask while patronizing a coffee shop, despite a mandatory order by the state’s governor, Kate Brown, that masks were to be worn in all public indoor spaces throughout Oregon.
The shop’s assistant manager told the trooper that he needed to wear a mask. The Statesman Journal reports that the trooper said:
“Governor Brown has no authority to take our civil liberties. We aren’t going to wear masks.”
The manager recalled that the trooper then placed his order, offering this foul-mouthed retort to the governor’s mandate:
“He said, F— Kate Brown”.
This story carries a lot of baggage. First, the trooper is one of America’s anointed class of cops, for whom there is little consequence for bad behavior. Second, the trooper is a man. Men are more likely to opt out of wearing masks, even though men are at higher risk than women of dying from coronavirus infection. Third, Governor Brown is a Democrat, and a bisexual woman, so it’s unlikely that the trooper was a fan.
FWIW, the trooper was fired.
Most people understand that a mask protects you while offering real protection to other people. The message seems to have gotten across that masks are mainly about protecting others, but those troopers in Oregon, and many other people across America, are simply choosing not to participate in their own, or in your protection.
The recent increases in confirmed Coronavirus cases across the US South and West are being driven by young people who are not social distancing. The young are also least likely to wear masks.
We compel all sorts of behaviors. Seat belts while driving. No smoking in restaurants. No t-shirts with inappropriate text in high schools. But compelling mask-wearing for safety? That’s a bridge too far.
Here’s the thing: Encouraging people to wear masks hasn’t worked. Shaming people who won’t wear masks hasn’t worked. Reassuring people that masks are not a political statement hasn’t worked. Informing people about the serious health consequences of COVID-19 hasn’t worked. Reminding people they aren’t invincible, that the Coronavirus has killed young, healthy people hasn’t worked.
Begging people to wear masks, if not to protect themselves, then to protect others, hasn’t worked.
If we can’t convince anti-maskers to care about their own health, then we certainly won’t convince them to care about other people. It didn’t have to be this way: Pandemic, death, and depression. Things getting worse because we argue and won’t work together.
People are saying, we quarantined for three months, that’s enough. If your boat capsized, and you swam for three minutes, would you say that’s enough, you’ll stop swimming and drown, even though you can see the shore?
The solution isn’t elusive, but it requires more social cohesion and less faux grievance about freedom.
You want kids back in schools? You want the economy to restart? Wear a mask!