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Eric Douglas sig

I haven’t been able to find the original minivan commercial, but there was one 10 years or so ago that posed a series of questions to people on the street:

• Would your fight a lion to keep your family safe?

• Would you run into a burning building to keep your family safe?

Of course, the people in the commercial said they would do those things.

And then the narrator asked the question, “Would you drive a minivan?,” reasoning that highway safety was a greater risk and the particular minivan in the ad had the highest safety ratings.

A lot of those people who had said they would bravely sacrifice their own lives for their families weren’t comfortable with that step.

I think about that whenever I hear people complain about wearing masks as a level of protection against the coronavirus.

Unfortunately, I’m seeing mask use decline as people get tired of them. Even worse, winter is approaching, and it will be harder to do things outside.

Masks aren’t perfect, of course. The best analogy I have is that police body armor isn’t a 100% guarantee either. It only covers the torso and can’t actually stop high-powered rifle bullets. But we still want police officers to wear it, even if it is hot and uncomfortable.

I don’t know anyone who likes wearing masks. I would much rather do without them, too, but every credible scientist I’ve heard says they do help.

Recently, I had the opportunity to interview Terry Fenger, from the Marshall University School of Medicine, for West Virginia Public Broadcasting. He is a virologist who teaches classes on viruses to the medical students and has been doing it for more than 40 years.

He believes in masks. And vaccinations.

We discussed how the coronavirus would interact with flu season. He said one positive note is that, because of the coronavirus precautions, we may actually reduce the flu as well. The same things that spread one virus spread the other. Masks, distancing, and hand washing can help keep us safe from both.

In the Southern Hemisphere, where they have just finished winter, the impact of the flu season was reduced because of their COVID-19 efforts.

Fenger told me, even with all of the precautions, he and his family would definitely get vaccinated against the flu, too.

We know that both the flu and the coronavirus disproportionately affect older parts of our population.

So, in all seriousness, if you would lay down your life to protect your family, be a real hero and wear a mask this winter.

I mean, no one is saying you have to drive a minivan.

Eric Douglas, of Pinch, is the author of “Return to Cayman,” “Heart of the Maya,” “Cayman Cowboys,” “River Town” and other novels. He is also a columnist for Scuba Diving Magazine and a former Charleston Newspapers Metro staff writer. For more information, visit or contact him at