Across West Virginia and the rest of the country, businesses and events are reopening and more people are venturing out. Some are traveling for vacations. And everyone is learning the coronavirus is still very much a threat to their health and safety, as case numbers are jumping and deaths continue to climb.
In California, Disneyland was poised to reopen its amusement parks in mid-July. That reopening has been postponed indefinitely, as restaurant and park workers express concern that it’s not safe to come back.
Across the country, colleges and universities are grappling with whether — and how — to bring students back to campus and are struggling mightily with a decision on possibly canceling the college football season — a massive source of revenue — as COVID-19 continues to spread. A professor of higher education at the University of Kentucky told The Washington Post he expects the decision to come late, adding that it will take one of the nation’s more prominent programs announcing it will not play for other teams to follow.
As for the general public, there are things people can do to stop or slow the spread of the virus as the country waits on a vaccine or medicine to treat COVID-19. They’re the same things public health officials have been advocating for months: Wear a mask in public places, frequently wash your hands, keep away from large crowds and keep 6 feet between yourself and others.
The mask thing has become a flashpoint over civil liberties, or, in some cases, the age-old retort of “You can’t tell me what to do.” In reality, though, the case for masks in public is pretty strong. The Philadelphia Inquirer, using data from the National Governors Association and The New York Times, reported states with mandatory mask policies saw a 25% drop in new cases between June 15-21. In states where masks were required of employees and patrons of businesses, cases dropped 12%. In states where masks are only required of workers at certain types of businesses, cases are up 70% over that same time period. And, in states where masks are recommended, but not required — of which West Virginia is one — new COVID-19 cases have spiked by 84%.
As West Virginia coronavirus czar Dr. Clay Marsh has said continuously, if 80% of West Virginians would wear masks in public, the infection rate would slow to nearly nil.
Gov. Jim Justice says he’s reluctant to mandate masks. And enacting a policy like that does come with challenges. Still, the governor’s own COVID-19 czar is saying flat out that it substantially decreases the risk of people spreading the virus and states where a mandate is in place are seeing fewer new cases.
Common sense and basic respect for the well-being of fellow West Virginians should win out here, mandate or no. Wear a mask, because this virus isn’t going anywhere until there’s a vaccine or a cure, neither of which is guaranteed to arrive at a specific time.
By all means, live your life. But do it responsibly.