Almost 4 million people have contracted the COVID-19 coronavirus and over 141,000 people have lost their lives in the United States.  In Alabama, we have almost 68,000 confirmed and 1180 probable cases.

Cases are increasing daily and without a vaccine, the numbers will only get worse, according to medical experts.

We have been provided information that could make a difference in the transmission of the virus. If we could just get people to cooperate.

Growing scientific evidence confirms that people can transmit the virus when they do not have symptoms. Medical professionals have informed us that simply wearing a mask can greatly reduce the risk of coronavirus transmission.

Evidently, there is nothing simple about the mask wearing.

Adults do not like being told what to do and some people are acting like children about masks.

In Florida, one woman told county commissioners she will not wear a mask for the same reason she does not wear underwear, “cause things gotta breathe.”  Another woman said mask mandates are a suggestion to “throw God’s wonderful breathing system straight out of the door.”

A county commission meeting had to be cancelled after mask -less protestors showed up to protest mask wearing in Utah recently.

The governor of Georgia has filed a lawsuit against the mayor and city council of Atlanta after they voted to approve a mask mandate for the city.  The governor says, “Georgians don’t need a mandate to do the right thing.”

Others have taken to social media to declare governors do not have authority to issue mask mandates because it is unconstitutional.

I hate to burst their ‘freedom’ bubble, but they are mistaken. Governments, specifically state governments have the power to regulate in the name of safety.  Under the 10th Amendment to the Constitution, state governments have the primary authority to control the spread of dangerous diseases within their jurisdiction.

Recently our governor made the decision to mandate mask wearing in Alabama.

The order states a face covering must be worn in public when in close contact with other people, or specifically within 6 feet of a person from another household.  The order applies to any indoor space open to the public or outdoor space where 10 or more people are gathered.

It will remain in effect until at least July 31.

Governor Ivy said Alabama is almost to the point where our hospital ICUs are overwhelmed.

She acknowledged that enforcing the mandate would be “difficult”.  The order carries a penalty of $500 or jail time.  Ivy said she would have preferred personal responsibility over a government mandate.

In a perfect world, that would be enough, but we do not live there.

Alabama Lt. Governor, Will Ainsworth, encouraged mask wearing but issued a statement saying the mandate is an infringement upon the ability of individuals to make their own health decisions.

If it were just the health of the individual not wearing a mask being affected, then he would have a point.  But when one person’s actions adversely affect the health and well-being of another, there is a social responsibility to act appropriately.

It looks like we have some childish behavior going on in Alabama also.  A Huntsville restaurant banned several state and local officials, including Governor Ivy, from entering their premises after the face mask mandate.

Most stores have up signs requiring shirt and shoes in order to enter, so how much inconvenience is involved to put a mask on your face if it can help control the spread of the virus?

The mask order could provide us a way to continue re-opening our state, get people back to their jobs and children back in school.  It seems like a small price to pay to achieve those goals.

The United States Attorney General said masks are like vaccines. “The more who participate, the greater the impact.”

One study found that men are more likely to refuse to wear a mask believing it to be a sign of weakness.  Maybe they should view it as a sign of leadership instead.

 Shaming people into wearing them will not work either. It only makes them more defiant.  Perhaps they are simply making their opinion about the concern for others clear to the world.

And that is why mandates are necessary.

We all know that masks are uncomfortable in so many ways, but watching the increasing numbers tells us the pandemic is winning the battle.

Mask wearing is a safety tool.  It is one of the simplest and cheapest tools we have. My mask protects you and your mask protects me.  Masks are a symbol that we are all in this together, that we are all sacrificing, and we care about each other.  

Do we really need another reason?

Anita McGill is a former publisher of The Sentinel. She can be reached by email at anitamcgill99@gmail.com.

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