James Elam: Saying what needs to be said on masks (Opinion)

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Some candidates for office and elected officials won’t say what needs to be said about the novel coronavirus. They’re afraid to shake things up, for fear this might cost them support in their election.

That’s not who I am. This dangerous lack of leadership is jeopardizing the stability and security of the nation. I’m more concerned about human lives and our economy than I am my race in the House of Delegates.

Instead of telling people what they want to hear, I’m going to tell people what they need to hear. Some might not like it — and that’s OK. It’s a tough pill we all need to swallow as a society. Educating others on the severity of this virus, and why masks are so crucial in slowing its spread, is the most patriotic thing I can do for our country.

I wish I could say I wasn’t disappointed in a large portion of the country right now. I’d be lying if I said that. I am more than disappointed — I’m angry. Extremely angry.

We’ve been in damage control throughout this entire pandemic, rather than being proactive. This stems from failed leadership at the highest levels of the government. However, not all of us are exactly innocent in our role in this, either.

Wearing a mask to protect public health and save lives shouldn’t be controversial. Yet, somehow, here we are during a global pandemic, and wearing masks is now extremely controversial and political. Now, people are being killed in the United States for trying to enforce that others wear masks.

Why? Only in America does this seem to be true, and to our own detriment. There is no other way around it. Slowing this virus down will not happen if we can’t get everyone on board. Thousands of Americans have died, and will continue to die, because of this inaction. When will enough be enough? How many more will die because we didn’t get it right?

Other countries are doing what’s necessary, despite the inconvenience, to prevent and slow the spread of this virus. It’s working. Is it inconvenient to have to wear a mask? Yes. Is it oppression? No.

Japan, for example, has roughly 38% of the population of the United States. That nation’s population is roughly 126 million people. Of those 126 million people, there were only 16,433 confirmed cases of COVID-19, as of this week, with 12,286 recovered. The most shocking part — only 784 deaths.

Now, let’s look at the United States. Out of roughly 330 million people, we have 1.58 million confirmed cases, as of right now. About 301,000 have recovered, which leaves roughly 1.2 million active cases pending an outcome. Sadly, the outcome for nearly 100,000 of our fellow Americans is death.

So, what’s the difference between the United States, Japan and other nations across the globe? The overwhelming majority of the people in Japan, and around the world, are wearing masks and practicing proper social distancing.

It should come as no surprise as to why the United States is in the position we are in. When you turn people loose onto society who blatantly disregard all the public health warnings, they are going to infect others. That’s “community spread.”

If we don’t take appropriate action now, I fear we will never get ahead of this virus. Who knows how long a vaccine will take? God only knows how many innocent Americans will die because some among us refused to act. This is avoidable.

What does this mean for the economy? Some people honestly believe you can’t care about human life and the economy at the same time. Absolutely false. I want us to go back to work — as does everyone else. However, we need to do it safely. If not, the effects could prove even more disastrous.

When we see more outbreaks because of the those who aren’t following public health recommendations, there is little doubt in my mind that this will cause us to pull back and shut down again. I can assure you, nobody wants that.

The lives of countless other people, and the stability of our economy, are on the line. Don’t wait until it personally affects you or your family to take action. That’s selfish and a major part of the problem. Wear a mask and follow social distancing. Do it for your country.

James Elam, a former correctional officer,

is a Democratic Party candidate for the

West Virginia House of Delegates

in the 36th District.

Funerals for Saturday, June 6, 2020

Bibbee, Larry - 1 p.m., Emma Chapel, Liberty.

Christian, Ralph - 2 p.m., Gilman Bottom Freewill Baptist Church, Davin.

Drennen, Betty - 2 p.m., Walker Memorial Park, Summersville.

Gilmore, William - 11 a.m., Cochran Cemetery, New Martinsville.

Jones, Randall - 11:30 a.m., Jedamski Family Cemetery.

Milhoan, Donald - 1 p.m., Roush Funeral Home, Ravenswood.

Moore, Donald - 11:30 a.m., St. Timothy Lutheran Church, South Charleston.

O'Brien, Michael - 1 p.m., John H. Taylor Funeral Home, Spencer.

Painter, Hazel - 1 p.m., Floral Hills Garden of Memories, Sissonville.

Rose, Robert - 2 p.m., Elk Funeral Home, Charleston.

VanMatre, Barbara - 1 p.m., Foglesong-Casto Funeral Home, Mason.