Opinion: It’s not your right to risk the lives of others

Published 9:39 am Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Recently my adult son, whose car was not working, asked me to take him to Walmart to pick up prescriptions. I gave him a ride but did not journey inside with him. As I sat watching people entering and leaving the store, I was struck by how few were wearing masks or face coverings and the lack of attention to social distancing as they entered and exited the store. I do not know how many could safely enter the store under the social distancing restrictions then in place, but I saw no evidence of anyone keeping track; though I could not adequately see into the store from my vantage point.

As I pondered what I was witnessing, it occurred to me many of these same people would be crowding into local restaurants, bars, casinos, and recreational areas Memorial Day weekend. The possibility of them having a change in attitude about social distancing or gaining respect for the safety of others before this happened seemed unlikely to me. I understand the need to reopen and begin a return to normalcy as our governor stated when he announced his Safe Return Order, but I am fearful too many will disregard cautions he and medical professionals continue to urge citizens take; continuance of social distancing and use of face coverings in particular. Failure by each of us to do these things will endanger others, including those I care about.

I am aware of the back and forth on the effectiveness of face coverings. The folks with initials following their name are better suited to argue the nuances of this than I. That said, I do know from arguments advanced by both sides of the issue that COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, starts with droplets from an infected person’s cough, sneeze or breath. These droplets might be in the air or on a surface that you touch before touching your eyes, nose or mouth.

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Once the virus reaches one of these places it has a passage to the mucous membranes in your throat. Within 2-to-14 days after that happens, your immune system will respond with symptoms associated with the virus either severe or mild and apparently in many so mild as to be undetected.

These facts tell me the farther away from other people I am the less likely I am to come in contact with the droplets. It also leads me to believe if my nose and mouth are covered and I am infected but unaware fewer of the droplets I expel will be hanging around in and settling out of the air around me. If I am not infected and wearing a face covering, fewer droplets in the air are likely to reach my vulnerable areas. Lastly, if I wash my hands often and avoid touching my face, I improve my chances of not becoming infected. Given all this why would any reasonable person purposely choose to not undertake the few and minor precautions to help curb and contain this unseen threat?

The news as I am writing this letter contains the story of a funeral in North Mississippi where about 100 people attended a graveside service and then a gathering afterward. A COVID-19 infected individual also attended.

To date nine COVID -19 cases have been traced back to this event, two of the cases were out of state residents who had returned home. One wonders if the simple social distancing rules suggested had been followed if these individuals would have been infected and then able to potentially infect people who they later had contact.

I strongly encourage all to practice social distancing, remain six or more feet apart, when out, wear a face covering, and do not gather with more than 20 indoors or 50 outdoors for as long as it takes to really contain this virus. There is no reason to be obstinate and increase the danger for others.

This is a free country and choosing to not practice the suggested activities that will lessen the spread of this virus is arguably a right, but as far as I am concerned you do not have the right to engage in activities that increase my risk or the risk to those I love.

Yes reopen for business, but we each must exercise personal responsibility and take appropriate actions to help all of us stay safe and healthy. If our activities cause the death of someone, was not wearing a face covering or remaining six feet away really worth it?

If you see me with a face covering and think he sure is overdoing it, just know if you are not wearing a face covering, I will be thinking you are a rude and irresponsible person for choosing to increase the risk of infection for each of those around you at that moment.

John Martin