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Dear Editor,

From my office window, I can see the “WE ARE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER” sign at the corner of HWY 24 and Main St. in Buena Vista. But, from what I read, see and hear, that sentiment isn’t penetrating the daily stream of grievances floated by any number of our neighbors, colleagues, elected officials, and yes, ourselves. Frankly, and pardon my language, this sucks – safe to say we all share that opinion.

Buena Vista COVID-19 message. Photo by Jen Hale

None of us like being locked down, shut out of our favorite restaurants, or unable to share time with loved ones. But, here’s the thing about wearing a mask during a pandemic caused by a respiratory virus spread by stuff that comes out of our mouths and noses. Healthcare professionals agree that wearing a face covering reduces the chances of transmitting germs and viruses – why else would nurses and doctors wear them in their daily work? It’s not because they’re comfortable; we now understand that all too well.

Public health agencies recommend, and elected officials in Chaffee County and elsewhere have directed, that all individuals are required to wear face coverings over the mouth and nose whenever going out in public or into a business. See Public Health Order 2020-5. It’s especially important to wear a face covering in places where everyone (regardless of political affiliation) must go – e.g. the grocery store, post office, and gas stations (among others). Reminder, COVID-19 doesn’t care who we voted for in 2016.

This is one of those rare situations in the United States where our collective best interest trumps (small “t”) our individual freedom. Without getting too deep into the constitutional weeds on this one, arguments that a directive to wear a face covering in certain situations is an unconstitutional invasion of our civil liberties are baseless. We accept more restrictive and invasive laws every day. And, the most conservative, freedom-loving U.S. Supreme Court justices of all time would likely agree that the government has a compelling interest in controlling a viral outbreak by the relatively non-restrictive implementation of a facial covering directive in certain narrowly tailored situations.

Wearing a mask also demonstrates one’s willingness to sacrifice, even in this most trivial of ways, for the benefit of our fellow citizens. What better symbol is there of “WE ARE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER” than all of us looking goofy and lacking the ability to convey any sentiment via facial expression. I find myself using my hands a lot more – thankfully, we are all 6 feet apart – I can get pretty animated.

In short, wearing a mask to the grocery store, post office and gas station isn’t just “politically correct,” it’s an effective method of reducing transmission of the virus, doing so shows that we value our fellow citizens, and it’s quite possibly the easiest way we can outwardly demonstrate that we are truly in this together.

We’re all in this together, right?

Casey Martin

Buena Vista