Viewpoint: We’re our brother’s keepers
By TOBY FOUKS
I am writing in response to K. Otto’s “Contrary mask advice” in the July 29 edition of the Driftwood. Anything about face masks catches my eye since from probably early in April I have sewn approximately 300 of them.
Someone very close to me was an early victim of COVID-19, so perhaps I have been more aware than most of its power to kill. At first the experts at the World Health Organization and elsewhere said masks would be of no use and not to bother. I thought about that, believed it for a short while, and then I noted that those cultures that were used to people wearing face masks appeared to be doing much better than we were at controlling the pandemic. I concluded that there was really no downside to wearing a face mask, and possibly a substantial upside. At that time I started making face masks, first to donate to Community Services and then to sell them in order to raise money for our food bank and latterly the coupon program for the Tuesday Farmers’ Market.
K. Otto — and I am borrowing words and phrases from Otto’s letter — is absolutely correct that a mask that is used and re-used, put down on contaminated surfaces and used again, not washed, or not washed properly … can act as a petri dish for pathogens. I am completely convinced by these words. This is an extreme case, of course, perhaps so extreme as not to be worth consideration. As well, if there is so much concern about cloth face masks, then disposable ones are readily available and in some situations are provided free of charge.
Otto continues to say that if the mask is worn for an extended period of time and/or during physical exertion the wearer can frequently experience dizziness, headaches, fatigue, and occasional fainting. Again, completely convincing. Breathability is very important and that is why children under the age of two should not wear them. I can imagine no reason for wearing one when jogging or chopping wood or playing tennis or taking part in other strenuous activities at a distance from others. Why would one impede breathing even a little in those situations?
What I don’t understand is what any of this has to do with someone who has no type of debilitating respiratory problem putting on a cloth mask before entering Country Grocer or Thrifty Foods or another of our open businesses and leaving it on for the short period in which he or she is shopping in order to protect others. As a matter of fact, people with compromised respiratory systems are unlikely to be shopping in public anyway.
The cashiers at Thrifty Foods and Country Grocer have the protection of plexiglass barriers so we can see their smiles. It is true they can’t see ours if we are wearing a face mask, but we can compensate with a few cheerful words.
If K. Otto thinks it’s a great offence against individual rights to insist that people don a face mask in indoor spaces then I’d like to say that people who are unprepared to make a small effort on behalf of the health of others bring to mind the question “Am I my brother’s keeper?”
The answer is yes, we have to be each other’s keepers, brothers and sisters, if we care about the community in which we live.