As states move through reopening phases, the growing COVID-19 case numbers are a grim reminder that we haven’t defeated the virus quite yet. Months of sheltering in place have taken an obvious toll on the American psyche. Rituals of spring and summer, such as graduations, ball games, and backyard barbeques have been replaced by social distancing and constant handwashing. What’s more, the joys of spending time with friends and loved ones have been replaced by natural sadness and frustration that comes from knowing that those lost moments may be gone forever.
It is often said that the crisis we are experiencing today is only surpassed by the societal trauma that Americans endured during World War II. Those who lived through the Depression and the deadliest war the world has ever seen endured hardships we can hardly imagine today.
But, when their way of life was upended and freedom threatened, the Greatest Generation banded together to contribute in every way they could to defeat the Axis powers who sought to spread fascism around the globe. The slogans of the 1940s helped unite individuals around common sacrifices. “Careless Talk Costs Lives,” “Dig For Victory,” “Lend A Hand On The Land,” and “’Make Do and Mend” told the masses that being discrete, buying war bonds, self-sufficiency, and conserving essential resources would help the men and women fighting overseas. They all reminded Americans of the goal of uniting to defeat a common enemy.
Today’s enemy isn’t fascism, it’s a virus. But the need for unity and the contribution of every American is the same. We need not wage war in the literal sense, but we must unite behind a common purpose and make sacrifices for one another to defeat this foe, protect the health and well-being of our fellow Americans, get people back to work, and restore our way of life.
Today’s sacrifices are significant but modest by comparison: Keep your distance, wash your hands, be mindful of at-risk individuals, and, yes, wear a mask when you leave your home. Retailers want nothing more than to welcome customers back into stores. Retailers have adopted practices that keep employees and customers safe.
Reopening retail and other critical segments of the economy requires everyone to observe some common-sense practices around hygiene and social distancing to make sure that our path back to normal is not interrupted with a relapse in COVID outbreaks. One of the most visible practices used by retailers is having employees wear masks. This is to keep you safe, and we encourage customers to do the same.
Masks are less about protecting you as an individual, and more about protecting those around you. We know that seemingly healthy people can be infected and contagious.
As we all start venturing back out to stores, restaurants, and other public places masks provide an effective barrier and limit the chances of infecting others. Studies continue to show that wearing a mask in public is the most effective means to prevent transmission.
One study published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that wearing a face mask prevented more than 78,000 infections in Italy between April 6 and May 9, and more than 66,000 infections in New York City between April 17 and May 9. If we all wear them together, we protect the entire community and dramatically reduce the risk of spreading coronavirus.
Taking a lesson from the Greatest Generation, perhaps a slogan would help? “It’s an Easy Ask – Wear a Mask.”
Listen to the health professionals who have spent years studying the spread of disease. Until there is a vaccine, mask-wearing is an effective tool to limit the spread of the virus and enable Americans to return to some semblance of normal life.
If you share in those goals, then you know what you must do. In a Public Place? Cover Your Face.
This virus is deadly, but we can’t let it kill Americans’ spirit of goodwill toward one another. Like before, now is the time to band together, to each do what we can to support the fight, to make sacrifices for the greater good, and in doing so contribute to victory and a return to our way of life.
Choosing to wear a mask is not about fear, and it certainly should not reflect one’s politics.
If your choice is to be in public, then please think of those around you, including the retail employees who are working throughout this crisis. They deserve our thanks, our respect, and our courtesy. They also want life to return to normal. If you want that too, covering your face while shopping is the least you can do.
The simple act of wearing a mask or face covering shows the retailers and other businesses serving your community that you care about their employees’ health and yours—and that you want them to stay open! Now is not the time to let up on protocols that are keeping us all safe.