We all saw it coming. Or, at least, we should have.
As soon as Gov. Sisolak's office announced last week a June 24 press conference would provide an update on the state's COVID-19 response — unless you've been living under a rock and thought things were magically getting better with the pandemic and full steam ahead to Phase 3 was a certainty — the writing was on the wall that a mask mandate was imminent.
In the hours leading up to the announcement, I spent time between deadlines scouring social media and the comment sections of various news sites to get a sense of the buzz.
After weeding out the usual riffraff of Twitter trolls and bots and people on Facebook painting fake-information-saddled doomsday scenarios (hint: no, there is not such a thing as a “Face Mask Exempt Card”), I came across the following exchange on one online comment page, and I summarize:
- Person One: “Just wear the masks so we can reopen Nevada's economy.”
- Person Two, in response: “In fact, we need to wear a mask to SAVE our economy.”
It really should be that simple.
Ever since the pandemic truly took hold in March, I considered the concept of a mask as “a necessary nuisance.”
For health reasons, they're most definitely necessary — but for practical reasons, even from a vanity standpoint, wearing them isn't ideal. They fog up my glasses; it's hard to hear people talk through them; as temperatures rise, they get muggy inside, and so on.
Yet, I wear a mask as much as I feel is needed in public, inside and out, because it's possible I'm asymptomatic and I don't want to unknowingly transmit the virus to someone.
As we see cases rise yet again in Nevada and across the U.S., more events are being canceled; sports leagues are making it clear (if they start back up at all) games will only be held sans fans; and more businesses are coming to grips with the notion that 50% capacity might be, for as much as I hate using the phrase, “the new normal.”
Still, Northern Nevada's economic recovery has begun, and many experts feel that light does exist at the end of the tunnel.
So for me, if we have an option to better contain the spread of COVID-19 while supporting that recovery, then I'm all for it — not just for health reasons, but because it's best for business.
“Today's directive is our opportunity to limit our risk for exposure and infection, and to keep our businesses open and our economy moving,” Sisolak said in a June 24 press release. “For Nevada to stay safe and stay open, we must make face coverings a routine part of our daily life.”
“I don't know why or when protecting our health and our neighbors' lives became a political, partisan or even philosophical decision,” the governor added. “For me it's none of those ... it's a medical necessity, a human obligation and … it's good for business.”
Again, it really should be that simple. No politics. No partisan lean. Whether you're blue, red or purple (disclosure, I'm a registered nonpartisan voter), it doesn't matter.
A June 14 article by Arthur Diamond, a member of the Foundation for Economic Education, titled, “Voluntarily Wearing Masks Can Save Lives and Open the Economy Faster,” goes into great detail about this concept, pointing out that it's consumers who will ultimately re-open the economy.
“Wearing a mask has come to symbolize support for lockdowns and not wearing a mask has come to symbolize support for opening (the economy),” Diamond writes. “In the future, the virus may evolve, our knowledge of it may grow, and we may seek new ways to adapt and fight it. But based on what we know now, the openers should not stigmatize those who wear masks. By stigmatizing, they undermine their own health and the health of others, thereby increasing the costs of opening and risking a backlash that could make lockdowns even longer and harsher.”
Diamond continues: “Those who seek a flourishing economy should praise, not stigmatize, those who wear masks. A flourishing economy depends on more than governments easing mandatory lockdowns. It also depends on consumers returning to a marketplace where they feel safe and respected. One way to protect, and thereby respect, the at-risk and the risk-averse is to wear a mask.
“Lockdowns will ease more quickly, and consumers will return to re-opened marketplaces more quickly, if masks change from symbols of lockdowns to symbols of openness.”
While I understand being frustrated (we all should be; after all, no one asked for catastrophic economic interruptions), what's not debatable is wearing a mask in public and inside businesses — especially, crucially when interacting directly with someone — can decrease the chance of spreading COVID-19, according to the world's top medical experts, including those in Nevada and Washington.
Both for personal reasons, and as editor of a publication that's meant to promote business in our region, I support the mask measure and urge my friends and colleagues who may be on the fence about this first-world problem to please swallow your ego and wear a mask.
I see it like this: If you don't agree with me, that's your right. But, if you want to pick a fight with me over science or share misinformation, please move along — or if you're a follower or friend on social media, then please search for the unfollow or unfriend button on your computer or mobile device and press it.
As the aforementioned Diamond puts it: “Masks are not our magic bullet against COVID-19, but they improve our odds. For our own health, for the health of others, for a faster opening, for freedom, each of us should voluntarily choose to wear a mask.”
When talking about our health and the health of our economy, it's really that simple.
Kevin MacMillan is editor of the Northern Nevada Business Weekly. Email him at email@example.com.