LTE: Please wear a mask and wash your hands

Our greatest strength is our individual health, without it we can do nothing else. We are in truly unparalleled times with so many uncertainties and, no doubt, frustrations around this national pandemic. I write to you all today to ask you to please wear a mask, whenever you leave your house. Each one of us can do this one, simple thing to stop this madness and truly end the frustration we all feel in quarantine.

I was talking to my Latino dad, a 52-year-old diabetic who otherwise takes his health very seriously, who told me that he was “taking his chances” and not wearing a mask. My response? This isn’t about just you, Dad. You see my dad lives with two other family members and goes to work every day as an essential employee, ferrying our food and other needed supplies across the state in his tractor trailer. If he were to get sick, it would no doubt infect his household, he would be left in isolation in a hospital—likely not far from my other family members. Thankfully, he is a member of a Union and has health insurance, but he couldn’t go back to work. As the main breadwinner, how does the mortgage get paid? God forbid, he wouldn’t recover, and we must sleep at night knowing we couldn’t be by his side during his struggle, or we couldn’t give him a proper send-off with only 10 people gathering at once.

Our momentary embarrassment about what we may look like, pales in comparison to the possibility of anything from the above coming true. I don’t mean to scare anyone as much as make sure we realize the realities and possibilities of not taking every measure to stay safe and keep you and your family healthy. The United States has already surpassed every other nation from cases reported and deaths, while testing is still not as broad as it should be during a national pandemic. In Missouri, there have been 482 deaths on the day that I wrote this. Less than 2% of the population of the State of Missouri has been tested thus far, and we haven’t seen a significant sign of a leveling or waning of those inflicted with the illness. This is real and as we start to see sunnier, 70 degree days, we all must take precautions until there is a cure for this rapidly spreading virus, that is not like the flu.

Wearing a mask, regular hand washing, and social distancing are the only ways to reduce your risk of contracting and spreading COVID-19. An N-95 mask can prevent 95% of particulates from impacting a person. However, these masks are in short supply and similarly protection from surgical or cloth masks have been proven to reduce risk of exposure. Several studies showed positive correlations with wearing masks to protect from the spread of droplets that may pass through the air in public places.

When I visited our local Price Chopper today, I was shocked by the few folks guarding themselves and their family by this simple practice. The reality that one sneeze or cough could impact so many, in such a vulnerable place, made me tighten my masks and hand sanitize immediately upon entering my car. The risk is not worth it to me and I hope you consider the impact to not just you, but many. We all want to get back out there, enjoy friends and family in social occasions, and some of us want to get back to work; but we can and should only do it when we have beat this thing. Together we can do it, if you need help finding a mask please do not hesitate to reach out- I will find you one because our community is far too important to let anyone go without.

Manny Abarca
Northeast resident

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