I went to the butcher shop to get a steak for supper. People were doing an OK job of distancing, but only one other customer besides myself wore a protective mask. The employees all wore masks and the shop had installed Plexiglas shields at the cash register to protect whoever rang up the merchandise. There were six customers in the shop who were not wearing masks.
At this point, I’m not particularly afraid of catching coronavirus. I am fairly certain that I was directly exposed to it in early February. My totally non-scientific opinion is that is that if I were going to get it, I would have caught it by now. I may even have it but remain asymptomatic. It’s hard to tell. Regardless, my fear of the bug is subsiding, not enough to take unnecessary risks, but I’m not as fearful as I was.
As I stood in line, appropriately spaced, and waited to get my steak, I observed my fellow travelers in the store as is my habit. Sometimes I make up little stories about their lives to pass the time, but on this day there were no stories in my imagination, just a slowly rising anger. The customers who refused to wear masks shared a common trait: they were all older white men. Half of them were old enough to be in the increased risk group, 60 or older. The others weren’t spring chickens.
The source of my anger was the message these men were sending: “I don’t give a shit if you live or if you die. I’m the only person I care about. The lives of others and the possible suffering I may inflict on others means nothing to me.” These men were too self-centered to make the small sacrifice of wearing a mask for the sake of others. It’s a statement.
The primary value of the mask is not that it protects the wearer from catching the virus. To the contrary, the mask protects others from being infected by the wearer, and it has been shown that when a significant portion of the population wears the mask, the spread of the virus is significantly reduced. Coronavirus can be spread by asymptomatic carriers, and in the absence of any reliable testing, we cannot know who may be spreading the plague.
One other fact about the virus: it is a truly horrible way to die.
Wearing the mask sends a message to everyone we meet: “I care about you. I respect your life. I want to do what I can do to keep you healthy.” It’s a love letter you can wear. Put it on.
The masks shown in the photo above were designed and built by my son, Alex. He is an industrial engineer and built the machine that produces the masks. They are made from ¾ oz. nonwoven spun-bound polypropylene which I understand provides enhanced protection.