Thursday, January 21, 2021

Why I wear a mask: Another perspective

by Darlene Frahm
| July 19, 2020 1:00 AM

During these COVID-19 days, I’ve been among those considered “high risk”: In my early 80s and with a history of auto-immune problems. Yet, not once since this virus made its deadly presence known, have I felt personally threatened. Like most people I know, I tend to believe “it won’t happen to me.”

However, I dare say few of the 3,483,905 Americans (as of July 15) thus far sickened by this pandemic or, sadly, the 138,358 who have succumbed to this disease, felt personally threatened, either — until they were. It’s worth noting that the United States makes up only 4.9% of the world’s population. Yet our country accounts for more than one fourth of the cases worldwide and about the same percentage of deaths. As the most powerful, educated and affluent nation in the world — one that likes to call itself “exceptional” — I, for one, am ashamed and disheartened. Should we not be asking ourselves, “Why we are failing so badly?”

Having said that I have no personal fear of becoming infected, my husband and I consistently wear masks when in public spaces and practice social distancing whenever possible. And we will continue to do so until our medical professionals and scientific experts present data demonstrating that COVID-19 is no longer a threat.

Without question, wearing a mask is restricting, makes it more difficult to hear and be heard, and feels “stuffy,” especially on those days when the temperatures rise. So why do we continue to do so?

First and foremost, we wear masks because we know they are effective in protecting ourselves and others. Studies done in New York City at the height of the epidemic showed that police, firemen, transit workers and all the health care workers who wore masks while confronting this epidemic head-on, day after day, experienced far fewer incidents of sickness and death than those in the general public who did not wear them. How can you argue with that?

However, the main reason I wear a mask is because I believe it is the right and responsible thing to do as an American. I realize this might sound “preachy” to some, but this belief was formed over the course of a long and event-filled life. We’ve been told that “we are at war” with an invisible – and, so far, invincible – enemy, an enemy many consider more dangerous than any we have encountered in our lifetimes. COVID-19 has already resulted in more deaths than World War I, the Korean Conflict and Vietnam combined.

I was a small girl during World War II, but well remember many of the sacrifices made to defeat that enemy. People neither complained nor failed to comply with the restrictions imposed upon all Americans: they simply did what was “best for their country.”

I look at our current war against this pandemic in the same way. For me, wearing a mask is more than just the physical act itself: it’s a way of showing support for all those on the front lines — here in the Flathead and across our country — who are fighting round-the-clock to defeat this pandemic. We have absolutely no concept of the hell they face daily! To a person, I know they would tell us to wear masks and to social distance wherever we may find ourselves. I have chosen to be part of the solution, even if in only the most minuscule of ways.

We all want things to get back to “normal,” our businesses to once again flourish, and thousands of “lost jobs” to return. However, much as we might want to believe otherwise, COVID-19 is not going away anytime soon. In the past two weeks we have seen a dramatic increase in Montana and in our own Flathead Valley, and across the country our numbers have risen at an alarming rate. We must not be fooled: As long as there is COVID-19 anywhere, there is COVID-19 everywhere.

And as long as there is COVID-19, we will not get our economy up and running again. The two cannot be separated. According to some experts, our time to turn things around might soon be running out.

People often claim this virus is no worse than the flu, that it’s been overblown, some even going so far as to say it’s a hoax perpetrated to hurt Donald Trump. Considering how the disease has affected our economy and our lives in general, I cannot fathom why anyone would buy into such a crazy fallacy.

Wearing a mask should not be a political nor an ideological issue. A mask has no politics, nor does the virus. We must stop listening to the erroneous and foolish advice of those who have only their own interests at heart. Instead, we need to come together for “the common good of all.” To me, this is what it means to be an American.

—Darlene Frahm lives in Columbia Falls.