The absolute last word on wearing a mask

Posted 8/14/20

Gather ‘round, folks. Pull up a chair. Let’s get settled in and talk about a subject on which we can all finally agree.


Who wants to start?

I’m kidding, of course. I’ll start …

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The absolute last word on wearing a mask

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Gather ‘round, folks. Pull up a chair. Let’s get settled in and talk about a subject on which we can all finally agree.


Who wants to start?

Just kidding. I’ll start, of course, because I just happen to have masks on my mind (and on my face, in my pocket, my shoulder bag, my glove compartment …) after returning from a short vacation in Colorado. It was a challenge because the air is thin there, especially where we were — hobknobbing in rarified elevations ranging from 9,173 feet in Keystone (our home base for five nights) to 10,151 feet in Leadville (even higher if you stop in one of tiny town’s famous “dispensaries,” which dole out THC-laced gummies and chocolates) to 12,183 feet on Trail Ridge Road, the highest paved road in the state.

In North Carolina, there’s a mask mandate. In the Rocky Mountain state, there’s a MANDATE. Masks are REQUIRED. See the signs? Just in case you didn’t, someone will quickly point them out. Pull yours down for a brief second to gulp some oxygen (which we did a lot, acclimating from our lowly home elevation of 354 feet) and you’ll quickly get chided, reprimanded, chastised, rebuked or berated. And, for good measure, occasionally castigated.

I enjoyed the cooler air (morning lows in the 40s, afternoon highs in the mid-70s) and low humidity and the bear cub that kept raiding our trash receptacle, but with as much moving around as we did, we and our Kansas travel companions spent a lot more time in masks than we’ve been used to. Five straight hours on the trip over to Denver (two combined hours in the RDU and Denver airports, three hours in the air). Walking into the Starbucks that didn’t have a drive-thru. Loitering over wildlife art in cool gift shops. Waiting at a restaurant bar for take-out food. Riding alone with my wife Lee Ann inside a ski-lift gondola a thousand feet from the nearest people. Checking out the gummies at the dispensary.

We pretty much stayed masked up in public, which is another way of saying Lee Ann and I really didn’t catch our breath until we got back home.

I’m not telling you anything you don’t know, of course. You also know there are two primary schools of thought on masks as a COVID-19 preventative measure. They are:

• Wear a mask, dummy. It’s not complicated. It protects you, it protects me. Slow the spread. Just do it.

• If you’re wearing a mask, why do I need one? They do more harm than good. If you want to wear one, by all means, knock yourself out. But you can’t steal my liberties by making me wear one.

I’m totally fine, actually, with the mask mandate, but it doesn’t mean I enjoy wearing them. Earlier on during the pandemic, I was, in turns, both the “one guy” in the store wearing one and the “one guy” in the store without one. I got nervous sweats both times. Nowadays, I don’t much notice.

In Colorado, though, everyone wears a mask, all the time. Which was interesting, because while there, my own personal physician — a man I respect incredibly, who’s been taking care of me for about 35 years but lives squarely in the no-mask camp — shared a story on Facebook that called mask-wearing policies “balderdash,” crude science not supported by data. The article — authored by an attorney and a journalist (I mean, who could trust THEM?) — said mask-wearing as a way to protect yourself from the “COVERT-19” coronavirus was “a narrow-sighted fantasy” that ignores real and potential harms, including “mask-induced dry coughing, allergies, and a sore throat from the micro-mold in your mask.”

Yeah, I get that. I sneezed in my mask while on the plane. Yuck!

One reader of the article wrote this early in the comments section: “If you want to kill brain cells, wear a mask. Then you will have an excuse to vote for a Democrat.”

You saw that coming.

Another countered by saying: “Your science may say masks don’t work, but practical experience says different. China’s neighbors, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Singapore, all caught the virus early but nipped it in the bud because they masked up right away. They had masks available. America and Europe did not. They also were not too proud to wear masks.”

While away, I also read several stories citing scientific studies showing the efficacy and effectiveness of masks, including one about a University of Washington report that said North Carolina would have 10,000 coronavirus deaths if we all stopped wearing them, and then another claiming that if everyone masked up for just six weeks, the pandemic would shudder to a stop.

Who knows.

I also had a ski-lift operator tell me it didn’t matter. COVID-19 cases, he said, would “all disappear” the day after the November election.

He was from Connecticut and didn’t have a law or journalism degree (or medicine, for that matter), so I think I’ll just believe him.

If you can’t put your hope in a mask, you gotta put it somewhere.


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