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Our View: Wear a mask, it’s the right thing to do

The Union Editorial Board

You’d think wearing a mask would be an easy call to make.

There’s a virus that’s spread across the world, earning itself the title of “pandemic.” We shut down the country for over two months, and even then over 120,000 people in the United States have died.

Now medical experts, backed by Gov. Gavin Newsom, are telling us to wear a mask when in public. Few people are exempt. Everyone is supposed to wear a mask — in the grocery store, at church, when meeting friends outside your home.

And for some reason there’s pushback.

A group has called for an alternative fair, holding a rally where few people wore masks. A group of speakers on Tuesday didn’t wear masks when addressing the Board of Supervisors. One exchange grew heated enough that Chairperson Heidi Hall hit pause on the proceedings.

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Nevada City Mayor Reinette Senum drew attention from multiple news outlets when she posted on Facebook that no law requires someone to wear a mask.

All of this leads to a simple question: Why is this controversial?

Some people choose personal freedom over personal responsibility — unfortunate because wearing a mask is hardly a burden, and it shows you care about your neighbors and the random strangers you encounter in the store.

Others might choose political tribalism as their reason for wearing, or foregoing, a mask. Our national divide grows wider every day. If the side you despise wears masks, you may refuse to wear one yourself, and vice versa.

That last reason is closely tied to a third: Our nation is too beholden to news outlets that agree with our preconceived notions.

We cling to information that reinforces our political biases. And with hundreds of media to choose from — ranging from national news outlets to any random person with an internet connection — it’s easier than ever to find the news we like, and discard what disagrees with our beliefs.

Science, however, doesn’t work this way.

The 1918 Spanish flu, as devastating as it was, has some lessons for us. There was no vaccine to protect people, and no antibiotics for bacterial infections linked to the flu. That led people to isolate themselves, practice proper hygiene, disinfect and limit public gatherings.

These efforts weren’t uniform across the country, and you can imagine what happened next. In fact, you can look at the nation around you right now and see for yourself.

Some people 100 years ago didn’t like wearing masks either. And, sure, we don’t know precisely how effective those masks were in warding off the flu.

But we do know that communities that had robust health measures across the board, those that started them earlier and kept them up longer, did better than areas that didn’t.

People opposed to wearing a mask will come up with a reason, and businesses that follow the science — and the governor’s order — will keep them out.

That’s fine. Those who don’t want to wear a mask can keep to themselves and avoid public gatherings. They can shop online and stay indoors, and keep their distance at all times.

The rest of us, well, we’ll think about those we know who aren’t as healthy, and wear a mask for them in case we’re asymptomatic and get too close to them. Or maybe we’ll wear it for the hundreds of strangers we’ll encounter while shopping, because it also protects us from breathing in infected droplets.

We don’t do this because of some governor or a law. We don’t do it to show allegiance to some political faction.

We do it because it’s the right thing to do.

The weekly Our View editorial represents the consensus opinion of The Union Editorial Board, a group of editors and writers from The Union, as well as informed community members. Contact the board at EditBoard@TheUnion.com.


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