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Wear a Mask for Me

I am extremely disappointed in both the Nebraska state government and in local governing bodies for the city of Omaha and Douglas County. We’re beginning the sixth month of trying to control the spread of the novel coronavirus, and Omaha, the most populated and dense city in Nebraska, still doesn’t have a mask mandate despite being the first location in the country to treat patients with COVID-19. With case numbers steadily increasing again over the past several weeks, I have seen many people acting responsibly and wearing a mask, but I have sadly seen an equal number flippantly forgoing masks and willingly endangering the lives of myself and others.

I have a suppressed immune system due to the chemotherapy agents I must take to keep my arthritis from destroying my joints and organs. I cope with the fact that I am at an increased risk for catching and becoming seriously ill from SARS-CoV2, and do everything I can to stay healthy by restricting the activities I do in public, wearing a mask whenever I leave the house, and constantly using hand sanitizer or washing my hands. However, I can’t guarantee I’ll stay healthy by my actions alone.

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My health depends on my friends, family and community members doing their part to wear a mask, alter their daily habits to increase their physical distance from other people, and frequently sanitize their hands and objects they’ve touched. I am vocal about my personal risk level because I know that being able to put a face and name to something can make it easier to justify changing habits. I know it can be frustrating to have to remember so many more things before running errands or going somewhere with family (it’s usually hard enough to remember a shopping list and bags for going to the store, or a jacket and reading glasses to see the menu for an outdoor meal at a restaurant).

Mask mandates are not intended to make our lives harder or punish us for leaving the house. Rather, these mandates are meant to serve as a reminder that our actions right now will seriously impact the lives of others and provide an additional source of motivation for us when addressing the onus of wearing a mask. We have long accepted and operated in a society in which we are legally required to wear some form of pants or other covering on the groin when we enter the public environment, lest we risk being charged with public indecency. Not doing so is a strange concept now but was something we had to be gently taught as kids.

Wearing a mask needs to be approached with the same attitude: yes, it will take some time to get used to, and the knowledge that skipping a mask could result in legal punishment might make accepting it easier. But ultimately, taking this simple step to protect our neighbors and show each other that we care can become as easy as wearing pants to leave the house.

So I implore all of us to please, wear a mask when you go out in public, support implementation of mask mandates where you live, and help each other remember that wearing a mask will save many lives, including mine.

For more on the coronavirus, check out the following stories from our community:

Getty image by Povozniuk.