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Just. Wear. A. Mask.

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Wow, what a time. None of us have experienced anything like a worldwide pandemic. Being at home with news broadcasts 24/7 and social media makes it hard to forget what is happening around the world.

I am one of the millions of followers of The Mighty connected by our health challenges. Having a chronic illness, mental health issue, disability or unexpected diagnosis can add to the stress. There is so much conflicting information that gets politicized, it is hard to know what to believe. I just tell myself I am safe at home here in Texas and try not to worry about what everyone else does, which is easier said than done.

Today I was inspired to write about the confusion over face masks. I live in a relatively small town north of Houston and often have different beliefs than the majority of people in my town — at least it seems that way. Texas has fared pretty well with COVID-19 and the death toll in my surrounding area is relatively small. Many people I know, some I consider friends, think the world is overreacting and we should just open everything back up. Well, last weekend Texas began to loosen restrictions but thankfully, I believe our governor has a reasonable plan. I am not opposed to trying to help businesses and the economy, but we also need to tread carefully.

Too often people say “If you are worried or feel you are at risk, just stay home.” Gladly. If I get sick it affects more than me. I am not afraid of dying. I am worried about being an unnecessary burden and risk for my family. Self-isolating would be difficult as I am disabled from multiple sclerosis. So I stay home as much as I can without losing my mental health.

I have been using curbside pick up for groceries and anything else I might need. A few trips a week at least get me out of my house. It’s surprising how many people need groceries or home improvement products. The stores have been pretty busy most of the time and it’s amazing what you observe from the car.

The simplest thing we can all do to protect others is to wear a mask. Anywhere from 20-50 percent of the people I observe wear them. Often the people that do not bother are the elderly and families with small children. The other day while picking up groceries I observed a family with two small children walking to their car. The mother pulled out a container of watermelon and started feeding one of the children in the parking lot. Maybe it doesn’t sound like a big deal, but all I could think of was, “Where is the hand sanitizer!”

I understand that many people are not afraid of getting infected and don’t see the point in wearing a mask. The point is that many people including you may be walking around with the virus, not know it, and spread it to others. So when you have been all over town not wearing a mask, not taking precautions, not concerned about others, you are putting me at risk.

What if my husband has to go the store for an emergency and you pass it to him? What if you come in contact with the store employee who brings me my groceries and pass it to her? People with chronic illnesses and disabilities can and do take many precautions to protect ourselves, but we would appreciate it if you just wear a mask when you are out and keep your distance. It’s about simple kindness and consideration.

In another pickup trip for groceries, a woman got out of her car to assist and talk to the employee while they loaded her groceries. The employee was wearing a mask, but the customer was not and was not giving her space. I felt sorry for the girl trying to load groceries. It was inconsiderate.

I guess my best option is to stay home for now and continue to take precautions. I’ll let the rest of you continue on. But if you are out and about and are wondering “Should I or should I not,” I would appreciate it if you would say “yes” and wear the mask. I would like to be out there with you sometime soon.

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

Originally published: May 12, 2020
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