What Are They Thinking?

Patrick Henry, the fiery American patriot and orator during the American Revolution, famously said, “Give me liberty, or give me death!”

However, Repubican governors in some of our Southern and Midwestern states have, under the guise of “freedom,” given that phrase during the current pandemic a 21st century twist:

“Give us liberty AND give us death!”

Ever since COVID-19 first was discovered, there have been a lot of unknowns about the disease and how it is transmitted. Scientists and medical professionals still are discovering new things about this bug and no doubt will continue to do so for years to come.

However, there is ONE thing about which there is now universal acceptance: Masking is THE most effective means we have for stopping the spread of this terrible disease.

Some Republican governors have refused to order public mask mandates for reasons that clearly are about politics and have nothing to do with the health and safety of their citizens.

They make the argument that they want to reopen their states because the economic benefits outweigh the potential negative health consequences. That, at least, is a debatable point.

However, the need to wear masks during a pandemic that features a virus that is spread by airborne particles from our noses and mouths is not debatable. More to the point, requiring citizens to wear masks is not inconsistent with “reopening” states’ economies. A state can still allow all of its businesses to operate fully AND also require that everyone wear masks at all times.

President Joe Biden remarked that these governors, mostly notably Bill Abbott of Texas and Kristi Noem of South Dakota, are “neanderthal” in their thinking. Although the pundits quickly joked that Biden gave the Neanderthals (who became extinct, by the way) a bad name, it is no laughing matter that their dangerous policies will lead to entirely preventable deaths in their states, exposing front-line workers, first-responders, and healthcare providers to unnecessary risk of harm.

Ms. Noem’s state of South Dakota for example, has the fifth-highest COVID death rate and second-highest infection rate among the 50 states.

Every state has speed limits, stop signs, and red lights on its highways. Every state requires every citizen to wear pants in public at all times. The suggestion that a mask mandate during a public health crisis represents an impingement on personal freedom is absurd on its face (no pun intended).

We are fortunate that in Massachusetts and surrounding states, masking at all times has been widely-accepted since the beginning of the pandemic. We have a governor and a public health infrastructure that have left no doubt about the need for everyone to wear masks while among others.

There may be a lot of unknowns about COVID-19, but the efficacy of wearing masks is not one of them.

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