Time to Mask Up

Under The Hood


Even with the number of recorded COVID-19 cases escalating at a rate unseen in Florida, we see less people wearing masks over time instead of more. That’s why it’s time local governments in this area put a masking requirement in place for those venturing into indoor, public spaces.

Let me make clear I’m not trying to play the role of extremist. I’m not advocating for a return to lockdowns. Indeed to me, the acceptance this pandemic will be with us for many months requires acknowledging business must operate and society must carve a oath forward that accommodates conditions instead of hiding from them. If a hurricane battered this area for a solid year, we’d find a way to work in the rain when it became clear the storm was not just passing through. In this case that means finding a way to venture into public while limiting transmission.

Unfortunately, the clouds continue to gather. Manatee County on Thursday reported 166 positive tests for coronavirus. Sarasota County tallied another 105 diagnoses the same day. Those results were part of a stunning 8,933 recorded cases in Florida on a single day. Gov. Ron DeSantis won’t issue a statewide mask requirement because many counties still report few cases. That’s fine, but expects local officials to respond to conditions in their own communities.

In a world where kneejerk reaction political demands transmit over social media in live time, elected leaders feel understandably reluctant to demand Americans do anything these days. That’s resulted in a public who rarely hears the call of sacrifice, even for so minor an inconvenience as a cloth face covering. Every hospital leader in the region politely asked already for the public to wear masks. But few governments in this area mandate it. Holmes Beach officials passed a requirement this week, but Manatee County Commissioners punted on the issue. Sarasota city commissioners will toy with the matter on Monday.

It’s worth acknowledging government’s contribution to public confusion on the manner— at least at the federal level. The Centers for Disease Control initially discouraged mask use, partly because with a low percentage of the population infected it made little difference at first, but mostly because of anxieties there weren’t enough medical-grade masks to go around should hospitals become overwhelmed.

At this point, countless big box stores, mall kiosks and local boutiques sell masks. And for all the dread from seeing statewide numbers skyrocket, the virus has yet to overwhelm hospitals in Florida.

Fortunately, fewer people now die from COVID-19 than did in early weeks and months. But while hope existed weeks ago Florida may be on the back end of the storm, the last week dashed that. It seems if governments choose not to issue mask orders now, they may soon need to in the future.

If you’ll allow one moment of pettiness, let me share a personal reason I favor a requirement. When I take my six-year-old into public, he doesn’t want to wear a mask, but will when he sees most people around doing so. If it’s a rule other people follow, he will as well. If there’s only a few masking at Publix, he fights me every minute at the store.

I can feel the eye rolls now. Should we have to wear masks because this guy’s kid won’t listen? It’s true. As a father, I shouldn’t relent to temper tantrums, and it’s my responsibility to make him behave in his own interest and of those around.

Officials should keep that in mind too during public input periods at meetings and when venturing online. Stubborn outbursts from grown men shouldn’t dictate public policy either.

Jacob Ogles is contributing senior editor for SRQ MEDIA.



Photo of Nolan and Jacob Ogles

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