Wear a mask, save a life
Even though it shouldnít be, I have a feeling this column will be unpopular with some of our readers. Thatís why I want to state the facts right out of the gate. Here it goes.
We are living in the middle of a deadly pandemic that has killed hundreds of thousands of people across the globe. The number of deaths has decreased in many countries but continues to increase in the United States. Northwest Arkansas, the region in which we live, is a national hot spot for COVID-19 deaths.
COVID-19 is real, even if you havenít been personally affected by it yet. This is not the time to have family reunions or pool parties. A trip to Walmart with the whole family is not conducive to good public health right now. If you arenít practicing social distancing and wearing a mask every time you interact with the public, you could be unknowingly spreading a virus that kills the most vulnerable in our society.
Gideon and I live in Eureka Springs, a community with an aging population that depends on tourism. That means many shop and restaurant owners had to reopen to the public before they were ready. The first shutdown in April nearly killed a few local businesses. Iím talking about businesses built from floor to ceiling as a labor of love †Ė the kind of business you spend decades dreaming about and planning for. COVID-19 hasnít just hurt local business. It has pulled the rug from beneath our dreamers and forced them to risk their health to keep the dream alive.
Once out-of-state travel was approved by Gov. Asa Hutchinson, tourists started coming to Eureka Springs in droves. Memorial Day weekend looked like any other celebration of the past, with people packed closely downtown. Most of them were not wearing masks. Gideon and I felt grateful to take in the scene from the safety of our vehicle.
I understand that we need tourists, but I canít help but notice that most of them couldnít be bothered to wear a mask while visiting our town. Itís the locals who are really pushing for everyone to wear masks, something the Eureka Springs City Council acted on last week. The council approved a resolution encouraging everyone to wear a face covering in public, fully acknowledging that itís only a recommendation until Hutchinson mandates mask wearing in public places.
Thereís no way to know if Hutchinson will ever do that. You can read more about that in my colleague Scott Loftisí column this week. Without an order in place, our locals and visitors are free to continue spreading the virus at downtown shops and restaurants, and even essential places like the grocery store and post office. You can only sanitize a business so much. If people arenít taking precaution to protect others from the virus, it will keep spreading.
Hereís a harsh reality for you: The people who refuse to wear masks in public are selfish. When one person wears a face mask, they protect everyone around them but remain vulnerable to those who donít cover up. When two people wear a face mask, the chance of transmitting the virus is reduced significantly for both parties. That person wearing a face covering at Walmart is protecting you, so whatís the harm in protecting them, too?
I understand that we all want to get back to normal. A pandemic is scary and it changes everything about life as we know it †Ė or it should, at least. It seems that, in an attempt to get back to normal, many people are extending the life span of the virus. If we donít start taking this pandemic seriously, we will be stuck in this new normal much longer than anybody would like.
Please wear a mask. You donít live in a vacuum, so your stance on mask wearing could mean the difference between life and death for our most vulnerable citizens. Wearing a mask is not a political issue. Itís basic human decency. Itís a way to say, ďI care about youĒ to your neighbors and friends.
Do you care about the people around you? If you do, you better wear a mask.