I feel better when I shop at Trader Joe's and LifeSource Natural Foods than at Fred Meyer. The reason doesn't have anything to do with the stores' prices, selection, ambience, or anything like that.
It's because Trader Joe's and LifeSource require customers to wear masks. Fred Meyer doesn't.
I have a feeling of We're all in this together when everyone around me -- grocery store staff and customers alike -- are wearing masks to protect ourselves and others from being infected with the coronavirus.
This graphic from the East Alabama Medical Center shows why my feeling is justified.
Wearing a mask does a lot to protect someone who carries the virus from transmitting the COVID-19 virus to someone else. And wearing a mask also does a lot to protect a healthy person from having the virus transmitted to them from a carrier.
That's the clinical or public health reason for wearing a mask. But this graphic comes closer to expressing why I enjoy shopping at Trader Joe's and LifeSource more than at Fred Meyer.
I could quibble with Andrew Cuomo's choice of words, because I prefer "care about" to "respect." However, his sentiment is right on.
When I see someone walking into Fred Meyer without a mask, and many people are doing this, I can't help but think that either they are clueless about COVID-19, or they simply don't care about helping to protect others from getting the disease, along with themselves, of course.
This is an area where science and philosophy are saying the same thing.
Often I hear public health experts say, "An infection anywhere is an infection everywhere." Why? Because the COVID-19 virus doesn't care much about borders. It can travel halfway around the world in a day by hitchhiking in the body of an infected person who may not show any symptoms.
Likewise, until every state in our country gets the coronavirus under control, each state will be at risk of a COVID-19 recurrence by infected people traveling around the United States.
Individualism has its merits.
However, the notion that each of us is an island unto ourselves doesn't match up with reality. Everything and everybody is highly interconnected. Causes here have effects there. None of us is capable of being self-sufficient. Even the most ardent survivalist requires supplies and equipment that come from sources other than themselves.
And in a pandemic like what we're going through now, individualism can be deadly. It leads people to wrongly believe that they can prosper by going their own way. No need to wear a mask. No need to socially distance. I'm going to do my own thing.
Well, do your own thing made more sense in the 1960s than right now.
In the nineteen sixties, "do your own thing" became a common expression. It meant to do whatever you wanted, without feeling guilty.
I was a college student in the San Francisco Bay area from 1966 to 1971. I and my fellow hippies did our own thing, guilt-free. However, what we did was a minimal risk to others. When I ingested LSD, no one else was going to have a psychedelic experience. By contrast, not wearing a mask today does increase the chance of other people getting sick with COVID-19.
Look, I understand that we Americans tend to believe ours is the greatest country in the world and we don't need to adopt the practices of other nations. But I sure like this passage in a story from The Atlantic, "Face Masks Are In," which describes how masks are viewed in East Asian countries.
The president [Trump] seemed to be implying that a masked country couldn’t be our country — that such a sight would be alien and alarming, and thus hopefully a short-lived ordeal. It was an expression of the stigma long attached to mask-wearing in the Western world, unlike in many Asian countries, where those who don’t wear masks during public-health crises are the ones who are stigmatized.
While an American might walk into a grocery store these days and view the proliferating number of masked shoppers as crushing confirmation that the apocalypse is nigh, someone in Hong Kong or South Korea might see the same scene as an uplifting indication that the community is coalescing to fend off catastrophe.