Liza Berger headshot
Liza Berger

I recently returned from a week’s vacation to Northern Michigan, one of my favorite places.

What about this area draws me? The natural beauty of Lake Michigan and other shimmering lakes; the adorable lakeside towns; relentless number of things to do outside in summer, fall and winter; and wonderful restaurants and ice cream shops. It is, in my opinion, the perfect summer vacation.

Fortunately, this year’s vacation did not disappoint, even with the pandemic raging. Try as it might, the virus could not take away the beautiful sunny days and gorgeous scenery.

But as its nature, COVID-19 managed to put a bit of a damper on life. It’s just no fun to douse your hands with sanitizer after every surface encounter and be constantly mindful of keeping six feet away from other people. I also discovered that the fears and insecurity of getting infected just don’t go away even when you leave home.

But there was one issue in particular about this COVID-19 holiday that troubled me more than others: The majority of vacationers and people in the area were not wearing face masks. Reflecting a problem throughout the country, people were not taking this virus seriously.

Wearing masks is a no-brainer. It is something easy that we all can do better at. And it might make a small difference in stemming the transmission of a virus with a strong asymptomatic component, one that preys on the most vulnerable, including nursing home residents. Masks are a weapon in our limited arsenal against this invisible enemy that includes handwashing and social distancing.

More than anything, the mask is a show of respect to other people, a sign that you care, that you don’t want to pass on germs that could hurt someone else. As Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said during House testimony on Tuesday, it’s important for officials to wear face masks, “not only because I want to protect others and to protect myself, but also to set an example.”

It’s for the sake of others — our elders and those with underlying health issues in particular — that we need to wear masks and take other precautions seriously. It’s too bad much of the country isn’t listening.

LIza Berger is Senior Editor at McKnight’s Long-Term Care News.