Spreading disease is not a constitutional right

By Meredith Howard | Assistant News Editor

It’s truly ridiculous the way mask-wearing has been politicized in the U.S. With President Trump refusing to publicly wear a mask until July because he didn’t want to “send the wrong message,” Americans are polarized about whether it’s right for state and local governments to mandate the use of face coverings.

This disagreement is unnecessary. Scientists agree wearing masks reduces the rate of coronavirus transmission. They don’t prevent the spread completely, but they’re one of few tools we have to combat the illness. Admittedly, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released guidance in February saying that masks were not necessary, but that was before COVID-19 became a pandemic and long before it had killed 200,000 Americans.

Information about slowing the spread of COVID-19 has fluctuated throughout the pandemic as scientists have learned more about the virus, but it’s been long enough since masks were originally recommended that Americans shouldn’t be fighting them.

Opponents of mask-wearing often claim a violation of their rights or a medical condition prohibitive of using face coverings. It’s not a violation of your rights to have to wear a mask, and the argument against wearing one is selfish. If you support the draft, which involves far more government control of your body in the name of security, covering your face for the health and safety of your fellow citizens should be no issue.

According to Dr. Albert Rizzo, chief medical officer for the American Lung Association, “masks have no detrimental effects, even in patients with chronic lung disease.” The CDC website says that children under the age of 2 do not have to wear masks, as well “anyone who has trouble breathing” and “anyone who is unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance.”

State and local mandates may differ from the above CDC exemptions, though, and people who have difficulty breathing would be safer staying at home when possible rather than going out without a mask. After all, those who have breathing conditions are more susceptible to COVID-19.

Widespread refusal to wear masks has shone a light on America’s terribly individualistic culture. The worst example of this is the rallies that have been held in the name of reopening businesses, playing high school sports or overturning mask mandates. My own hometown of Springfield, Ill., has suffered from these marches, and I’m embarrassed to admit that there are people in my geographical community who support them.

What these inane protests demonstrate more than anything is a lack of understanding and empathy for those who have been affected by COVID-19. To think that high school football is worth gathering in the hundreds, risking the spread of disease to people who don’t even attend the rallies (healthcare workers, family members, etc.), is uncaring and egotistical.

That being said, I don’t see overall resistance to mask-wearing at Baylor. Of course there will be students who need to be reminded to put one on, and a fraternity has been suspended for flouting social-distancing guidelines, but I generally see more people following the guidelines than breaking them.

When you do see a large gathering or poor mask compliance in town, you can call the Waco Business Concerns hotline from the Waco Health Department at 254-750-5970. Let’s all do our part and practice social distancing, wear face coverings and assist health authorities in enforcing these rules. They are in place for our benefit and safety.