Masks are here to stay; get used to it

Mike KnaakEditorial, Print Sartell - St. Stephen, Print St. JosephLeave a Comment

Get used to it…the coronavirus and the disruption to our daily lives it causes will be with us for months, maybe years…not weeks.The number of people who do not wear masks in public when grocery shopping or performing other essential tasks indicates many people have not accepted this reality.

People who don’t wear masks offer a number of reasons – none of them supported by facts or science.

I’m not worried about getting infected and I feel fine. Wearing a mask is not about protecting you. It will help you from infecting people around you. Many people with the virus do not show symptoms but they can still spread the disease. If you get infected today, at a minimum you’ll likely experience five infectious days without symptoms, and some people go 28 without symptoms while they can still infect others.

 Covid-19 affects mostly people in big cities with crowded living spaces, mass transit and lots of pedestrians. Six weeks ago, Stearns County’s case numbers were in the low double digits and stayed that way for weeks. But thanks to a ramp-up in testing, Stearns County’s number slowly increased until two weeks ago. Then major outbreaks at poultry processing plants in Cold Spring and Melrose pushed the county numbers to more than 1,500 cases and Stearns County gained national attention for the dramatic case increase. As of Monday, state health workers had confirmed 194 Covid-19 cases among workers at the Pilgrim’s Pride poultry processing plant — more than double the 83 cases just four days earlier. 

Stearns County’s dramatic outbreaks occurred in small towns, not big cities.

 Mandated mask-wearing rules are an overreach by big government. Americans prize their individuality and personal freedom. You can think covering your face is overreach and still wear a mask so you don’t make someone else sick. Be willing to accept some discomfort for the common good.

 The worst is behind us. It’s easy to conclude the worst is behind us as some states open up parts of society and Donald Trump promotes economic recovery. The facts don’t back that up. In Minnesota, Gov. Walz says he expects deaths to “steadily rise.” The state plans to spend $6.9 million on a warehouse to temporarily store human remains of Covid-19 patients in case there’s a surge in deaths.

“I know this is a sensitive topic. It’s an uncomfortable topic for a lot of people. But we need to have a capability — we need to have a plan for a large number of deaths,” said Joe Kelly, the state’s Homeland Security and Emergency Management director.

Just because Minnesota is slowly easing shut-down orders does not mean the worst is over. It does mean we’ve slowed the spread, partly by practicing good public health habits. Easing up on hand-washing, mask-wearing and social distancing practices will lead to a spike in the number of sick and dead Minnesotans and force a return to the strictest stay-at-home rules.

 The coronavirus pandemic is a hoax over-hyped by the media. Don’t frame this public health crisis as a red-state/blue state, Republican/Democrat debate. You are not showing your political or social opinions by covering or not covering your face. Covering your face does show you believe in science, prefer to set a good example for others and care about those around you. Wearing a mask in public, maintaining social distancing, not touching your face and washing your hands will not stop the spread, it will only slow it down so health care workers and hospitals aren’t overwhelmed.

As stay-at-home orders gradually ease, there will be more deaths. By August, the national death toll will be north of 140,000 victims.

Wearing a mask keeps respiratory secretions within that barrier and helps protect others if you’re sick, even if you have minimal or no symptoms. It’s also a helpful reminder not to touch your face.

One more fact – in the time it took you to read this editorial, five of your fellow Americans have died because of a Covid-19 infection.

Author: Mike Knaak

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