Moab is entering phase two of its experience with COVID-19, opening its doors to visitors after being isolated for eight weeks. The isolation period was successful from a community health point of view, only a handful of people contracted it (I was one of them), no deaths but very stressful and disruptive for the community and financially damaging for many. I have many concerns about opening up. This global pandemic is still evolving and no one knows how it will progress. Will the warm weather slow the virus, is herd immunity happening, will the coming fall/winter be the second wave, will people continue to cooperate and follow the CDC's health recommendations? No one knows. And most Americans have no personal experience with COVID-19 and therefore it seems far away and possibly overblown. I understand.
Yet, I decided to speak out after surviving COVID-19 earlier this spring and following an encounter I had at City Market more recently. I was in the pasta section of the store, wearing a mask. Another customer was ahead of me so I stood back and waited. Then the customer turned, looked at me, paused and said, “Wearing a mask, are you afraid of getting the virus?”
I was taken aback but had a response ready, “No, I’ve had the virus. I’m wearing the mask out of respect for those who have to work here.” I was not sure what would happen next. My fellow customer turned and walked away, saying and acknowledging nothing.
There is no vaccination for COVID-19. Vaccination is most likely a year away and then it will take more time to produce enough vaccines to vaccinate the entire population. Until then, as a country, we have to do what we can to keep this virus at bay and, as a community, make the re-opening of Moab’s economy successful and sustainable. The tools each one of us has in these fights are quite simple: wash your hands frequently, maintain social distance and wear masks in crowded, closed-in spaces.
Wearing a mask for some is a hassle, or an inconvenience, or an infringement on their rights. Whatever your feelings about a mask I believe the biggest reason to wear one is to show respect and care for those who have to go to work at grocery stores, the post office, restaurants, retail locations, or any other commercial space. We know that working in crowded, indoor spaces is a hot spot for the virus to spread as COVID-19 spreads via breathing droplets suspended in the air. Also important to remember, the virus can be transmitted by those showing no symptoms at all. That makes a dangerous situation for our community members who work indoors. All of us wearing a mask when we frequent their places of work, is the first line of defense for these essential workers.
If you’re still not sure about wearing a mask, I ask you to stand in the shoes of those working indoors all day, every day, putting their lives at risk. How would you feel? Showing respect and support by wearing a mask is not hard when you have empathy and care for others. It is this respect that will also contribute to the successful reopening of our community.