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Hear the science

In the parking lot of a local store, my dear friend witnessed an exchange between an older woman and a younger man. He wasn’t wearing a mask, the woman noted that he should, he told her to mind her own business; he said no one is going to tell him what to do. Here’s the thing, yes, they are, and they do every day. And, guess what, you do it.

Let me ask you, did you zip your pants when you got dressed today?

They told you to do that, and you did it. You may have done it because an open zipper gets caught on things or because your pants fit better when they’re zipped. But you really did it because they told you to; and it’s not just for you, it’s for all of us around you.

People who intentionally don’t zip their pants are viewed by others as either incapacitated and in need of assistance or as a potential threat. Zipping your pants is expected behavior, it’s a norm.

The last time you got on the elevator, did you turn around and face the door? They told you to do that. You’re not doing that just for yourself, it’s for the others on the elevator as well. People on an elevator who don’t turn around and face the door are viewed by others as either incapacitated and in need of assistance or as a potential threat. Facing the door in an elevator is an expected behavior.

They tell you to wear a mask because it’s for the greater good. I realize that they didn’t tell you to wear a mask when this first started. In fact, there was some information that masks were meant only for those known to be infected.

It’s a new disease. The information is going to change as we learn more and more about it. So, when they tell you that wearing a mask is important to stop the spread – for the greater good — wear the mask. When they tell you to socially distance to prevent the spread — for the greater good — socially distance. It’s difficult to hear the science in the midst of the din of pundits. But it’s out there; listen to it and follow it — for the greater good.

Yes, you’re an American with rights and the freedom to choose. But you do not have a right to put the well-being of others in danger. We have transportation laws in place because the science showed that things like maximum speed limits and seat belts reduce deaths. But when those were just recommendations, people didn’t abide by them because no one was going to tell them what to do. And now there are laws.

We don’t currently have laws in place about wearing a mask, but we do have recommendations from the scientific community. Do the right thing — for the greater good. Wear a mask. Do it to protect your mom, or your best friend’s grandfather.

I realize that most of the cases of COVID-19 that have occurred in our area have been in long term care facilities.

Someone carried it into that facility; that someone was exposed to COVID-19 by another person, likely by many other people.

It could have been you. If you don’t wear a mask, you’re increasing the likelihood of spreading the disease. It may be uncomfortable – your glasses fog, your face gets hot, you can’t see people’s facial expressions, your voice sounds muffled, etc. Find one that’s comfortable enough and wear it.

Maybe you have a medical condition and can’t wear the mask — you fit into the category of being incapacitated and in need of assistance – perhaps someone can shop for you. If you don’t have a medical condition and refuse to wear a mask because you’re not going to let them tell you what to do, you’re a potential threat to the rest of us. Wear a mask, it’s a new norm, and it’s for the greater good.

(Betty McCall is an assistant professor of sociology at Lycoming College in Williamsport.)

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