D. Louise Brown

Louise Brown

First, I want to say thank you to the mom I recently saw in a grocery store parking lot. She and her two young kids were all wearing masks. The youngest, who couldn’t have been more than 4 years old, clearly didn’t like it. But Mom was firm, and the mask stayed put.

I also want to say thank you to the thousands of Utahns who regularly wear a mask. A private prayer of thanks goes out to every one of you. Thank you for being wise, reasonable, safe and thoughtful. And thank you for helping others around you stay safe.

Now, to those of you who balk at the idea of having to do something you don’t want to do: The momma part of me wants to smack you and ask when you’re going to grow up. Because this mask thing isn’t about just you. It’s about everyone around you. Literally.

I know it’s hard to have to do something inconvenient. Heaven knows we’ve become a society of expected convenience where the wait between the time we place a lunch order at the fast food drive-up window and unwrap a burger always seems too long. But this mask business is a serious issue, one that needs to be pulled out of any political or “personal rights” drama and plunked down into the common sense arena.

If this was an unprecedented situation, opposers might have some ground to stand on. But back in 1995, legislation was passed that determined one person’s right to produce an unhealthy atmosphere ended with the next person’s right to an uncompromised, healthy setting in a public place.

I wonder how many of today’s mask opposers ever sat in a movie theater or an airplane cabin or a doctor’s office with secondhand smoke from a person sitting next to them curling around their face? You can bet there was opposition when the Utah Indoor Clean Air Act was drafted to protect the general public from secondhand smoke’s clinically proven health risks. Many smokers wanted to keep their right to light up wherever and whenever they chose. But they lost the fight because of the incontestable evidence that secondhand smoke was a potential killer.

Well, there’s a new killer in town, one even more deadly than secondhand smoke. And wearing a mask is the simplest answer — unless we choose to make a big deal of it, or to ignore it. Like you, I keep an eye on people without masks. I distance from them and harbor resentment for their carelessness to me and everyone else near them — especially vulnerable people.

The difference between back then and now is we don’t have any mask laws — yet. We actually hold the power to make sure we never do. We could wear masks without being forced to — but why should we do that? Mostly because common sense says we should. So did the leaders of Utah’s four main hospital chains, who minced no words in explaining that if we don’t mask up now, our hospital facilities stand the chance of being overrun in the next few weeks. So did our state’s governor. So did some of our religious leaders. So does every medical advisor, news broadcaster and public health person we listen to.

There’s no data to indicate how many people do or don’t wear masks. But CDC info (which also lists the few acceptable exceptions) confirms that wearing a mask while social distancing reduces not only your chance of getting the virus, but also of spreading it to others.

The best reason to mask up is because it’s the wise, safe, thoughtful thing to do. It keeps you safe; it keeps other people around you safe. It contributes to keeping businesses open, helps make sure schools open in a few weeks and will definitely help flatten the curve. And in a dramatically simple way, you give peace of mind to everyone you meet — even total strangers. We keep preaching that we’re all in this together. Well, we are. With everyone’s lives on the line, there is no good argument for not wearing a mask. At least one that isn’t selfish.

So do the right thing. Be the hero. Wear the mask.

D. Louise Brown lives in Layton. She writes a biweekly column for the Standard-Examiner.

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