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A simple face mask can battle COVID-19 & keep California’s economy opening up
dennis Wyatt web
Dennis Wyatt

Finally, Gov. Gavin Newsom made the tough call.

California is now requiring that face masks be worn in inside public places and in a number of outdoor situations.

Those revolted at the idea need to read the fine print. The parameters are more than reasonable. They also carve out sensible exceptions when it comes to situations in public indoor places where social distancing is possible.

The face mask requirement will allow California to walk the tight rope act needed to minimize the spread of COVID-19 that lacks both a treatment and a vaccine as well as prevent economic carnage.

As a virus that attacks the respiratory system, the most common way of spreading COVID-19 — much like the flu or cold — is by the act of breathing.

To put this in perspective most of us expect others who have a cold to cover their mouth — or at least direct it away from us — when they sneeze or cough. We also know that not everyone catches a cold or the flu even if they are exposed to people who have either.

For the flu we all have varying levels of immunity that may have come from previous exposure or a vaccination that provides the body with antibodies that may have the ability for warding off an infection.

For whatever reason, when it comes to COVID-19, given definitive research hasn’t been nailed down, the bodies of some people are able to take on the coronavirus. That could translate into them never getting sick or just slightly ill without ever realizing they have COVID-19. That said just like a person who will eventually become ill with COVID-19 can spread the coronavirus before their symptoms start appearing, someone whose body may have thwarted COVID-19 from making them ill can also spread the virus.

It is not knowing who those people are — the ones that are carrying the virus and will eventually get sick and the ones carrying that virus who won’t get sick — that pose the greatest risk at spreading the coronavirus. When someone is actually sick with COVID-19 they are highly contagious but at least it is clear who they are and steps can be taken to reduce the potential for patients to spread the coronavirus.

That is why Newsom’s directive is reasonable and should be followed.

It is ironic that the fine print in Newsom’s order included making sure face masks are worn during blood donations.

Donating platelets back in mid-March was the first time I had ever put on a face mask. Red Cross required it.

To say it was a tad uncomfortable that first time was an understatement of humongous proportions. As I slipped it on after they took my temperature at the door, I almost instantly became agitated. My breathing quickened and my pulse rate took off. I felt what people might describe as a panic attack. In short order I went back to being an 8-year-old when one of my brothers and two of his friends took turns “horsing around” while holding my head underwater in a swimming pool. Once I realized what was causing me to be uncomfortable, I was able to calm down a bit. By the time they took my vitals my pulse was a reasonable 57 and blood pressure was 118/84.

If you have ever given platelets the actual process involves around two hours of having needles poked into both arms. You cannot move your arms even to scratch your nose. Even though I had already done in excess of 240 platelets donations in the previous 14 years I was not sure I was going to get through this one.

I explained to the phlebotomist my concerns. She assured me at any time if I got uncomfortable to call for her and she’d pull the mask down.

I ended up spending the next two hours zoning out while watching reruns of Law & Order on Netflix while convincing myself that I could deal with the mask given those that needed platelets were literally in a fight for their lives while I just had to get past an unpleasant and unexpected memory.

I have since made four more platelet donations. I am now on a six-week hiatus due to reaching the limit on the amount of plasma and white blood cells Red Cross will take from an individual over a 12-month period. Rest assured I will resume being stuck with needles for two or so hours every other week when August rolls around.

It’s about life, after all. I can tolerate the mask even if I don’t like wearing it if it gives me a chance to help someone else who has not been blessed with good health.

I admit since mid-March I have only worn face masks into stores when I was required to do so. Going to mandatory face mask wearing in stores and the select public places Newsom has outlined is not going to kill me but not wearing one might kill someone else.

My wearing a face mask may not help to keep me from getting sick but if it helps keep other people from getting sick because I’m an unwitting host to COVID-19 and may be among those that will not fall ill of it then whatever temporary uncomfortable feelings I experience are worth it.

Rest assured having to wear face masks this Saturday when I shop at Target, Food-4-Less, and Grocery Outlet in addition to Costco where they’ve required face masks for more than a month is nothing compared to having a face mask on while both your arms have needles in them for two hours circulating your blood through a machine to remove plasma and platelets.

The face mask requirement may not only help avoid neighbors, friends or strangers from getting ill or even die but it will also help neighbors, friends, and strangers to avoid economic devastation by allowing businesses to keep opening.

It also will make gatherings of people — including in classrooms — more practical.

No one is arguing this is an ideal situation.

I get that people have a lot of reasons for not wearing face masks. Based on my own experience I wouldn’t doubt the validity of whatever concern they have.

But realizing that all laws whether it is something as simple as posted speed limits relies heavily on voluntary compliance to reduce chaos and carnage, should make it easy to understand the importance of following the mandatory mask law.

Just like speeding, a few of us will ignore it almost all of the time, some of us will occasionally digress from it and most of us will follow it not to an exact “T” but in an imperfect manner complying almost all of the time. The end result is a tolerable level of carnage on our streets and freeways.

Keep in mind it’s not about your freedom being taken away but rather a rule with reasonable rules and sensible carve-outs needed to make sure 40 million of us can live together in California.