As the Covid-19 pandemic continues to sweep the nation, the numbers are simply horrendous. 4.6 million cases have been confirmed as of the time of writing in the United States, with more than 150,000 dead. Despite these statistics, it seems like a large chunk of people seem to be “over” Covid-19, not thinking it deserves concern. While I too am a bit tired of all the quarantine and lockdown measures we have had in place during the past few months, I know they serve a vital purpose. While it may not feel like there is much we can do, there is one small measure each of us can participate in to slow the spread of Covid-19 – wearing a mask in public places.
For context on the horrific numbers we have seen, 40,000 more Americans have now died from Covid-19 than died 100 years ago fighting in France during World War I. And it isn’t over by a long shot. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 20,000 more deaths will occur in the United States during just the next three weeks with current trends. That is more than the entire population of Sartell or my hometown of Sauk Rapids. These numbers should serve to show us all the threat of Covid-19 is real and dangerous. Even if you are younger and personally at less risk, think of parents, grandparents and people with vulnerable immune systems who you know who you could potentially infect.
Masks are vital to stopping this deadly infection because of the way Covid-19 spreads. The virus is most commonly spread through droplets that go into the air when people cough, sneeze or talk. Wearing a mask inhibits droplets from your nose or mouth from spreading through the air and being picked up by other people. This is why everyone wearing masks is so important. Wearing a mask protects other people more than it protects yourself. Thus, masks are only effective if everyone wears them.
State governments across the country have endorsed these scientific facts by mandating masks just as Gov. Tim Walz did here in Minnesota. Private companies like Walmart and Target have also introduced mask mandates in all of their locations regardless of whether states require them. Many local stores like Coborn’s are doing the same. The level of communication and accommodation that is being conducted is admirable. Not only are companies telling customers in advance that they’ll need masks, but they also are providing them at the door for people who forget them.
For those who might say wearing masks in public places is a violation of their rights, I would also say each business has the right to protect its employees and customers and keep people out who would endanger them. There are numerous other things we do every day to keep ourselves and others safe, such as wearing seatbelts, obeying traffic signals and washing our hands. Wearing a mask is no less difficult than doing any of these.
What I especially abhor is the hate and abuse many store employees, including many of my friends, have endured at the hands of people who want to shame them for wearing masks. It is never OK to attack a store employee for doing their job, much less when they are simply wearing a mask to protect you and their fellow employees from getting sick with a deadly disease like Covid-19. That behavior needs to stop and I hope if any of us see it happening we will step in to defend those employees.
I know so many of us desperately want to get back to “normal,” but the truth is Covid-19 will not go away unless we all work together to be responsible for the next few months until the growth in cases can be brought under control. Wearing a mask isn’t fun I know, but I recognize if I want to go someplace in public I should be protecting the people who work there and my fellow patrons. If we don’t all take measures to stop the spread of Covid-19, this lockdown, and the infections and deaths associated with it, won’t end for a long time.
Connor Kockler is a student at St. John’s University. He enjoys writing, politics and news, among other interests.