Dear Editor,

— Editor’s note: To read the reference letter by local resident Mike Garrett, go to Page 4 of last week’s Weekend Edition of The Chronicle-News that ran on Friday, July 24.

No, to mask or not is not “a can of worms.” It’s a very simple issue. It’s only humans who tend to twist, conflate, misunderstand and create unnecessary divisions. All of these actions shift attention away from the very simple situation humanity faces right now.

Humans have always been confronted with viruses and diseases that cause death, paralysis, and any number of unwanted health conditions. Obviously the most famous is the bubonic plague that wiped out a huge percentage of the world population in the 1300s and is still with us.

We could go on and on listing these organisms that have found their way into the human body and wreaked havoc and mass deaths. You also know that our advances in recognizing and combating infectious diseases – worldwide – have been astounding and can be credited for the fact that you and I are alive today to face the latest COVID pandemic.

Here’s the simplicity of what we face: An uncontrolled virus is circling the globe. It is highly contagious, potentially deadly, and for which there is no vaccine. This is a fact. 

In the meantime, we have no recourse but to do the best we can to protect ourselves (and I am talking about all of humanity), first, from even being infected and, second, from preventing the virus from defeating our individual immune systems if we are infected.

Second simple fact: if humanity does everything possible to prevent spread of the virus, we will fast track our success rate and get life back to normal.

That’s where the masks enter this simple story. Since the virus’s easiest access to our internal organs, especially the lungs, is through our nose and mouth, wearing a shield over that access could do that simple thing: Keep the virus from spreading — end of story.

Although we weren’t born wearing masks over our mouth and nose, it is possible to learn to breathe fully with covering (as our cowboy forebears have always shown us.) At first, having the mask on feels different. Of course! And some people panic and have trouble breathing because they are panicking. (Imagine what it feels like to have the virus and literally not be able to breathe!) With calmness and slow breathing, anyone who can breathe without a mask can breathe just as well with one. (How did women learn to walk around in high heels, after all?)

Wearing a mask saves lives. What an astounding and powerful result of such a simple sacrifice.

It’s not necessary to mention all the deflecting arguments you list in your letter because you totally miss the simple core of the issue which I will repeat: The world – that’s everyone still alive – faces a pandemic, a potentially deadly disease that can be carried and transmitted by anyone, often without any obvious evidence of their infection. The disease can be brought to our small community by a delivery driver, a person who is traveling through and stopped at a gas station, a citizen returning from visiting family in Denver. Without knowing, an infected person can infect 10 other people merely by talking among others; those 10 can infect 10 each, bringing the total to 100, again, without any of them knowing. And on the exponential infection rate spreads, non-stop, for up to two weeks before any of them are aware or have any symptoms.

Please don’t let all the sidebar complaints and issues distract you from the core situation we face.  There is nothing that can guarantee a person won’t die from this virus. There are no “go backs.”  Virus in; virus finds a fertile landing; human dies or faces a lifetime of debilitating after-effects. 

You mention that we shouldn’t even be worried here because no one locally has died.  Really! Is that your measurement of the seriousness of this pandemic? 150,000 humans in our country have died. One hundred and fifty thousand innocent, beautiful, important souls have been taken by this virus since January 2020! Over 650,000 people that we know of around the world, and those are people with access to medical services where they were counted. How many are suffering and dying alone, without medical assistance?

You can continue to eat your can of worms metaphor as much as you want, but I will promote saving lives until I lose mine.

Face masks save lives. Face coverings that don’t cling to the face provide almost as much protection and allow people to see you. Not a bad compromise.

Yes, we are Trinidadians and should care about each other. And we are also Coloradans, so “Go team.” And we are also Americans. Most important of all, we are humans who share a planet that is suffering. Individually, we probably can’t “save the world.” But individually we can save lives, and more than we’ll ever imagine because we might not even know we have the virus.

There won’t be any bells and whistles or fireworks in the sky if we’re carrying the Coronavirus and NOT transmitting it to others because we’re wearing a mask.  Every time I go into the grocery store and pass someone in the aisle, I like to think that I’ve just saved that person’s life.  It’s not a bad feeling, and it causes me to take a soothing and deep breath inside my protective mask.

Harriet Vaugeois

Trinidad

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