Opinion: Wearing a Mask in Public Shouldn’t be “Voluntary”

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In a time of crisis, we often find ourselves looking to our leaders for guidance. However, in the time of a global pandemic, even our trusted government employees have differing viewpoints on the best way to conquer the spread of COVID-19. While President Donald Trump has stated that he probably wouldn’t follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “voluntary” recommendation to sport a mask in public, governors and mayors across the nation are urging us to do so, as to prevent even the slightest chance of contaminating others. So, who should we listen to? What should we really be doing to protect not only ourselves, but also our friends, families, and even strangers? The answer is simple, in my opinion.

No matter how religiously you follow the guidelines of social distancing, how much hand sanitizer you keep on you every time you go to the grocery store, or maybe even how immune to this virus you may think you are, everyone should be wearing a mask when they go out in public. It doesn’t matter if you’re young or old, this terrible pandemic plaguing our nation does not discriminate. It’s taking lives left and right, healthcare providers are working around the clock, unemployment rates continue to rise across the country, and our lives have practically been on pause since late February of this year.

What once was nowhere to be found in America soon turned into one case in a nursing home in Washington. We blinked, and one became eight. Then eight became fifteen. Fifteen turned into 40, 40 to 100, and now, there’s not a single state left that has any less than fifty cases. This spread faster than most people could have ever imagined it would, yet some still chose to disregard its severity. The eight cases we didn’t blink an eye at halfway across the country in early January turned into over a thousand cases in our state faster than your entire spring break trip; yet you decided that it wouldn’t affect you, so you chose to travel out of state anyway. You refused to acknowledge you were contributing to the problem and did as you pleased.

Now, as a result, entire states are shutting down. Schools are grasping at straws trying to come up with their final lesson plans for the year, families are budgeting their money to the umpteenth extent as a way to make do until their next paycheck, and yet people still feel like the virus isn’t going to affect them. Even if you don’t personally get it, you can still give it to someone else. If neither happens, great! But look around you. Your favorite store is closed, you can’t go see the latest movie, and “a night out” is starting to become sitting on a blanket in the backyard, wondering when life will return to normalcy.

Quit going out when it’s unnecessary. Wear a mask when it is necessary. Stop travelling across states just because it cost you $2,000 and you planned it months in advance. Stop acting like this pandemic doesn’t affect you, like you’re invincible to germs, because sooner or later you will get the same wake-up call as the loved ones of immunocompromised people who lost the fight of their lives to this deadly disease.