I was recently talking to a sibling who moved out West. Thanks to the miracle of remote work, he was able to ditch cold winters while keeping his day job. As they say, nice work if you can get it.
But he’s found that the weather is not the only thing that’s different. He left a place where it’s generally understood masks must be worn in public during a pandemic.
As for the new venue: many of his neighbors tend to view such accessorizing as a sign of weakness, of being on the wrong team – and/or of being against civil liberties.
In a way, his discovery probably shouldn’t be terribly surprising. As a nation, We the People seem to have devolved into a modern-day equivalent of Hatfields or McCoys.
A basic requirement of this new alignment holds that support for one side necessitates antipathy toward the other. As if that’s not disturbing enough, many things that really shouldn’t have much to do with political ideology are now getting tossed into the mix.
Unfortunately, mask wearing seems to have been pulled into this nonsensical vortex.
I realize feelings often run deep on both sides, but here’s the thing: The coronavirus doesn’t really care whether you are Republican or Democrat, rich or poor, left handed or right handed – or have any defining characteristic that could somehow get bisected. That little bugger is simply looking for free lodging. Any susceptible human will do. And as a general rule, it’s a pretty lousy house guest.
This truth will come to no surprise to anyone working in our field. Long-term care may account for less than 1% of the nation’s population, yet is tallying up about 40% of COVID-19 deaths. The carnage is everywhere.
Now you might think that in a nation where more than 14 million COVID-19 cases and nearly 300,000 related deaths have been recorded, preventive measures like mask wearing would be a no-brainer. You’d also be wrong.
So I have an obvious solution. It’s one that is practical and of course will never happen. Here goes: Pass a federal law mandating the wearing of masks in public until the CDC says they are no longer necessary. In the meantime, anyone found to be out of compliance must visit a nursing home resident with COVID-19. Maybe even call it O’Connor’s Law.
O’Connor’s Law was inspired by the movie Scared Straight. In the 1978 documentary, a group of juvenile delinquents get to spend some quality time with actual convicts in New Jersey’s Rahlway State Prison. The hope was that by getting the bejesus scared out of them by hardened felons, these youngsters might gain an important and life-altering perspective.
Do you think watching a resident deal with the impact of COVID-19 might be similarly persuasive? Perhaps.
But let’s get real. O’Connor’s Law is a silly idea that could never happen. Still, we’re surrounded by things that are a lot more preposterous.
Such as the notion we shouldn’t do everything humanly possible against a monster who is causing more deaths than 9-11. Every. Single. Day.
John O’Connor is Editorial Director for McKnight’s.