Editorial: A mask is not a political statement

Posted May 15, 2020 5:00 a.m. EDT
Updated May 15, 2020 5:58 a.m. EDT

Inmates at Tabor Correctional Institution sew masks for use during the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo courtesy of N.C. Department of Public Safety)

CBC Editorial: Friday, May 15, 2020; Editorial #8540
The following is the opinion of Capitol Broadcasting Company.

Differing over current policies of how and when sectors of North Carolina economy and social life can be safely opened is appropriate. It is how government in a democracy works and consensus is reached.

But behaving in ways that endanger the health and lives of other people is not part of a policy discussion.

Still, there are some members of the North Carolina General Assembly who want to make a political statement by NOT wearing protective masks when engaging with others, such as in the state House or Senate chambers or out in public.

A mask is NOT a political statement. It is not an element of policy debate.

Given the legislature’s own STRICT COVID-19 rules for public access to the Legislative Building – including temperature-taking of all who enter, limiting by half, the people allowed in and requiring social distancing -- legislators who shun masks either believe they are super-human or, by their behavior are selfish hypocrites and acting dangerously.

In the state House of Representatives, members are given masks for the daily sessions. While many Democrats appeared to be using masks, many Republicans weren’t. That led one Democratic legislator to tell The Charlotte Observer: “You could tell they were making a point of not wearing a mask.”

What point? A protective mask isn’t liberal or conservative, Republican or Democrat.

If there is any statement, it is one of common decency. Wearing it says we care about the health of our friends, co-workers and even strangers we happen to come in contact within the limited ways we connect with others these days.

What it says is that the wearers are concerned enough about others that they don’t want to, even inadvertently and unknowingly, risk infecting someone else with the COVID-19 virus.

For legislators who refuse to wear masks in the Legislative Building, there is a very simple solution. Those legislators should be required, at least daily, to be tested to determine if they are COVID-19 positive. The results must be a public record. If they are found to be negative, they should be required to wear a badge or other item that clearly identifies that that they have been tested that day and are negative. If they are positive, of course the appropriate quarantine and other health precautions should be imposed.

Many of us, without ANY symptoms, could be carrying this deadly virus – with the very real possibility of unknowingly infecting others. Does someone have a “right” to put other people’s life at risk? Is it an expression of bravado? Is it about being able to bully and belittle those who do wear masks?

Putting on masks DOES SAY the wearers are concerned enough about others, that they don’t want to risk infecting someone else with the COVID-19 virus.

Is it old fashioned to want North Carolina’s legislators to lead by example?

  • To care about our neighbors’ health and safety?
  • To be serious about reducing the spread of COVID-19?

If it is, we’re the worse off for it.

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