EDITORIAL: Masks. No longer just a safe option

Government again steps in when citizens won't step up
Two men wearing protective face masks walk with a dog in New York City on Wednesday, April 15, 2020.
Two men wearing protective face masks walk with a dog in New York City on Wednesday, April 15, 2020.

Categories: Editorial, Opinion

Now you’ve gone and done it.

Health officials have been saying for a couple of weeks now that wearing a fabric covering over our mouths and noses could help us stop the spread of coronavirus by containing coughs, sneezes and water droplets we all spread when we talk.

We’re not talking about the more involved  personal protection equipment required to protect medical professionals and sick patients from catching the disease.

We’re talking about a simple extra layer of protection to keep us from spewing our spit into the air and then having someone breathe it in or having it land on something that someone later touches.

Taking this basic precaution — endorsed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — can be as simple as wearing a bandana over your face or cutting up an old t-shirt and hooking it around your ears with a couple of rubber bands. 


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Yet few of us have bothered to wear them— including vulnerable older people and workers at stores and other businesses.

So the state government is stepping in.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, in a new executive order, has given us until 8 p.m. today (Friday)to start wearing masks or other face coverings whenever we’re near others in public. 

Specifically, it applies to all public spaces like grocery stores, public and private transportation (Uber/Lyft), and other public areas where you’re likely to encounter others.

You don’t have to wear your mask every time you leave the house, but you should have it ready. For example, if you’re out walking and you’re not encountering others, feel free to pull the mask down. But when you’re about to come near others, you have to pull it up.

There are no penalties yet. But eventually, police or local officials may start enforcing the practice with tickets and fines.

And before you go there, don’t start whining about how this is stomping on your civil rights. This is an emergency health situation.

And besides, we already have laws against indecent exposure and unsanitary practices that individuals and businesses collectively follow as members of society. (New slogan: “No shirt. No shoes. No mask. No service.”)

It didn’t have to come to this. All we had to do was voluntarily take this basic safety precaution in order to protect others. 

So wear your mask. It’s mandatory now.

More importantly, it’s the right thing to do. 

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