Op/Ed

Letter to the editor: Make masks mandatory

This is a letter I wrote to the Vt. Governor’s office:
I am writing this email to ask if you would consider making the wearing of masks mandatory inside of stores, public transportation, and other public enclosed environments. Here is my reasoning and some thoughts:
•  It is now known that COVID-19 can linger much longer in the air, and travel further via lighter bioaerosols (vs. heavier droplets) — lingering literally for hours and as far as 25 feet or more. Touch contagion is worrisome, but infection by air is terrifying.
•  You are requiring masks (and social distance) in work environments in the recently loosened work standards.
•  Even though masks do protect the wearer, the primary reason to wear one, according to all scientific sources, is to protect others. A person and their child in a grocery store line are innocent victims of a maskless person behind them.
•  This idea is important … There is a population of Vermonters who are self-conscious about wearing a mask, thinking that it indicates fear or weakness. There are, of course, also those who are, and will remain, just ignorant of the facts about contagion, or just don’t care.
•  As we ease a range of restrictions regarding distancing in business and public functions, etc., I feel masks should be mandated in “enclosed” stores and publicly accessible businesses right through next fall. This should be the “new normal” that people get used to. As we shed masks outdoors, indoor requirements should stay in place. Over time, almost everyone will accept this as a “gesture to others,” more than a protection of self.
In the absence of, or in addition to a mask-wearing mandate, the state (and the country) should embark on a campaign something like, “Masks – Wear Them For Others!” There should be blaring signs, media announcements, and financial support such as free masks, contests for creative masks, etc. Ideally, it could become a source of “personal pride” that one wears a mask to protect others, especially those more vulnerable among us. If people perceive wearing a mask as a noble act, then perhaps we can get everyone on board.
Please consider some variation on the “movement” that I describe above. It could be one of the truly effective ways to flatten the curve and save lives.
Frank Burkle
Weybridge

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