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EDITORIAL: Making masks mandatory

Dave Mullett and Shara King, co-owners of Midnight Tailors, are producing and selling filtered face masks in the St. John's area. The low prevalence of COVID-19 in Newfoundland and Labrador is likely behind the low uptake on wearing masks in public places.
Dave Mullett and Shara King, co-owners of Midnight Tailors, produce and sell filtered face masks in the St. John’s area. - Contributed

Your liberty to swing your fist ends just where my nose begins. It’s an old legal saying about limits on our personal freedoms. No one knows for sure who said it first, but it still rings true. Maybe even more so now in these days of the pandemic.

You’d think all Canadians would be willing to take these words to heart, willing to do whatever it takes to stop the spread of a virus that has claimed lives and brought our economy to its knees.

But are we? Not all of us.

Many of us have found ourselves in a situation where we expected people to be masked and practicing social distancing, and found they weren’t.

Sometimes it’s just forgetfulness. We find ourselves at the grocery store without a mask and go in.

Others are feeling COVID-19 fatigue after months of lockdown and isolation. It’s summer, after all, and we’re out of the house and not everyone is being as careful as they could.

And still others, a small group of Canadians, is actively pushing back against the idea that wearing a mask to protect against the virus should be mandatory in public places. Some have gone so far as to say that requiring children to wear a mask is child abuse.

Until recently in Canada, anti-mask sentiment had been contained to a few isolated eruptions.

We’ve probably all heard by now about the Toronto woman who refused to wear a mask while seeking treatment for her son at St. Joseph’s Hospital. Hospital staff asked her to leave and called security guards to escort her out.

Her social media post about the experience has been viewed by more than four million people.

Anti-maskers are now trying to organize cross-country protests to boost support for their cause.

The backlash against mask use comes from those who say it leads to other health problems and that mandated use is a form of political control.

But medical experts say very few people have conditions that preclude mask wearing. Since catching COVID-19 would be deadly for those individuals, experts say, they should be self-isolating as much as possible.

While masks alone will not prevent the spread of COVID-19, there is a growing body of research that masks, used properly, can reduce transmission.

A recent poll by Leger, our country’s largest Canadian-owned polling company, shows 58 per cent of Canadians and 70 per cent of Americans think it should be mandatory to wear a mask in public in confined spaces.

While the number of daily cases of COVID-19 has been steadily trending downward in Canada, now’s not the time to turn our attention away from preventing the spread of the virus.

In the same Leger poll, 77 per cent of Canadians expect a second wave.

So, it feels like common sense that now would be the right time for local health authorities to step in to make sure we keep the spread of COVID-19 in check, by making masks mandatory in indoor public spaces.

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1 being least likely, and 10 being most likely

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