A grocery store clerk in town is a local treasure. She knows everyone by name. She listens to them. She usually has just the right thing to say, and I’ve always considered her a friend.
I may have lost a friend yesterday. With the death of my son-in-law to Covid, I take it as a personal affront when someone tells me they “don’t believe in masks.”
I ran in for one item. She asked about my family, as she always does. When I told her the news, she asked me what too many others have asked since this happened, “What else was wrong with him?”
“Healthy people can die of Covid,” I wanted to shout. Instead, I said what I’ve wanted to say since March: “I wish all of you in the store were required to wear masks.”
“I’ve heard they don’t work,” she said.
“Scientists say that if we all wore a mask, we could reduce deaths by as much as 85%,” I said, citing a piece of research I read early in the shut down.
“That’s not what I heard.”
“But scientists say … ”
She interrupted. “Science is your thing. I don’t believe it.”
I grabbed my bag and ran out of the store, the anger bubbling over.
Disinformation is killing us.
A new study says there may be as many as half a million deaths by the end of February, and that universal mask use could save 130,000 thousand lives between now and then. We are approaching a quarter-million deaths now.
Biostatistician Ruth Etzioni says, “The exact numbers are impossible to predict,” but she urges policy makers to compare “the difference between the scenarios with and without masks.”
While the policymakers dither, here’s what I’d like everyone to ask: What if the scientists are wrong? Are you going to die because you, like surgeons and nurses and woodworkers the world over, wear a mask?
Now, what if you are wrong? Do you want 130,000 more deaths by spring on your conscience?
These are hard times. I can’t go with my daughter and her boys to my son-in-law’s funeral. My grandsons have lost their father. They don’t need to lose any more family members.
Meanwhile, we will continue to wear our masks, keep our distance, and wash our hands. If we’re wrong, we’ll live to talk about it.
I hope everyone who reads this will put on masks any time they go out.
I hope the Congress steps up with funds so nonessential workers can stay home and essential workers have the safeguards they need.
I hope a safe and effective vaccine will be here before the next school year starts.
I hope my grandsons will remember how much their father loved them and how hard he worked to provide for them.
I wish I could say I’ll forgive those who spread the disinformation, who have turned masks into a political statement, but that may be a hope too far.