A couple, wearing masks, was walking south along the dirt Santa Fe Trail in north Colorado Springs. A cyclist was pedaling north on the recreational trail, which ranks among our city’s treasures.
The couple and the cyclist were 15 feet apart as they approached. As the cyclist drew close, the couple stepped 20 feet away, turned their heads and covered their masked mouths.
This is extreme caution.
Hour later, the cyclist walked into Walmart, where a sign requiring masks for customers was displayed prominently on the front door. Several unmasked customers, mostly youthful, roamed the aisles. Several unmasked shoppers, mostly youthful, were seen the next day roaming through Sprouts grocery store.
This is lack of caution.
In our strange coronavirus spring, the cautious and incautious must find a way to dwell together. Those terrified of the virus coexist with the skeptical. Those who believe COVID-19 death counts are understated make conversation with those who believe COVID-19 death counts are exaggerated. Those who want stay-at-home orders extended wave across the street at neighbors who yearn to roam free for drinks at bars and meals at restaurants.
POLL: Do you wear a mask in public?
I ask those who roam mask-free through stores to consider these truths:
You look indulgent and reckless. You stand out. You aren’t worried about your health. That’s obvious. But, please, show proper concern for the health of others, especially our most vulnerable.
Americans excel in many realms, but disagreement might rank as our greatest talent. We can disagree, it seems, on anything. And, trust me, we will find multiple ways to quarrel over handling the coronavirus crisis.
But we can agree on these crusades:
Let’s eradicate those murder hornets.
And let’s wear masks while shopping. Everyone. Young and old. Cautious and incautious.
Skeptics of the might of coronavirus represent only a minority slice of America, but they have a gift for making noise. Letters to the editor in The Gazette are dominated many days by skeptics. Skeptics/protesters have gathered at state capitols in Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin. (A local skeptic protested my use of the word “stormed” to describe the capitol gatherings.)
Some of the protesters arrived armed, which was clearly meant to intimidate. Some waved Confederate flags.
At the Wisconsin capitol in Madison, speakers complained that police declined to install portable toilets for the convenience of those who attended the rally. Gov. Tony Evers had refused the organizers’ application for a permit.
But those making noise are clearly in the minority.
A national Yahoo News/YouGov poll in late April revealed over 70 percent of Americans, regardless of political party, are more concerned about lifting restrictions too quickly than lifting them too slowly.
A Colorado poll released this week revealed similar views. A survey by Democratic firms Keating Research, OnSight Public Affairs and Mike Melanson found 68% of Colorado residents support the new safer-at-home order with 21 percent against the measure. In the same poll, 80 percent of respondents favored requiring face masks for those shopping and working.
The message is clear: The majority of Americans, and Colorado residents, understand taking aggressive action against the coronavirus saved lives. Those actions carried a massive cost. Small business owners were devastated. Grandparents missed seeing their grandchildren. Loneliness multiplied.
And the march of death was slowed.
We can’t remain this locked down forever. I get that. You have to eat. I have to eat. We must crawl back toward some semblance of normal.
But as we crawl, this much is clear:
When you go shopping, no matter your age or view of the might of The Virus, wear a mask.