Face masks. It’s hard to believe that a simple piece of cloth (or polypropylene) has morphed from something doctors and nurses wear in hospitals into a political argument, triggering protests, causing physical violence between moms at grocery stores and inciting tons of angry conversations between friends and family on social media platforms such as Facebook.
As of today, the United States has over 9 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 and over 228,701 deaths. Did you get an emergency alert on your phone today? Me too. It said what everyone has been saying all along but in a very alarming way. It scared those who are already wearing masks, and angered the people who still think the whole thing is a “hoax.” With over 110,000 confirmed cases and 601 deaths in Utah, it’s safe to say there’s no hoax here. According to the New York Times, over the past week there has been a 30 percent increase in cases from the average two weeks earlier.
As stated by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), COVID-19 spreads during close contact. When people with COVID-19 cough, sneeze, sing, talk, or breathe they produce respiratory droplets. When someone is in close contact with a person who has COVID-19 (possibly unknowingly), exposure can occur through those respiratory droplets. Which is why the CDC and the World Health Organization strongly advise the public to wear a mask. Wearing a mask is the strongest defense we have to stop the spread of COVID-19.
So, why am I still seeing friends gathering in large numbers with too few people wearing masks? Have we grown emotionless to what’s happening around us or are we choosing to turn a blind eye in order to make going to birthday parties and other social events feel less irresponsible? And does the fear of missing out really outweigh the fear of spreading a disease that has infected millions and killed hundreds of thousands of people? Unfortunately, at least for right now, I believe the answer to those questions is yes. With that said, you can still choose to make selfless decisions.
Remember in early April when everyone was flooding Instagram with “stay home, save lives!” and “wear a mask, protect your community!” posts? Well, I’m not sure who needs to hear this right now but staying home still saves lives and wearing a mask is still a civil duty. These are decisions we can make to help slow spread of this disease, because while COVID-19 might not be directly affecting you, it’s directly affected 601 people in Utah and their families.
But one also has to bring up leadership. You know, the people who are supposed to keep us safe. In early October, after months of downplaying the Coronavirus pandemic, President Trump tested positive for COVID-19, along with the First Lady and others who attended the September 26 event when Trump announced his Supreme Court nominee. One of which was our very own Senator Mike Lee who recently compared President Trump to Captain Moroni from the Book of Mormon. So let me reiterate, leadership (especially during a global pandemic) matters.
Nonetheless, here are some thoughts, the “I don’t care if you don’t care” mentality has to go. We’ve all been put in this situation. You’re meeting up with friends, you’re going to a meeting in the office, you’re dropping something off at a family members home and they ask if you want to come in for a cup of coffee. Whatever the situation is, if it’s in close quarters of another person you don’t already live with, you need to wear a mask. I’ve asked a few friends the same question: What’s something that makes you feel uncomfortable when interacting with other people during COVID-19? And it’s the same answer every time. “Handshakes, fist bumps, high fives, hugging, and really any form of physical touch.”
While it’s completely normal to crave physical affection, there are boundaries that get crossed when you approach someone with a hug or a handshake. It might not seem impolite to you (when just a year ago it was the cordial thing to do) but during these daunting and unsettling times, we have to evolve. To cut to the chase, maybe cut the fist bumps and just say “hi!” instead.
Lastly, follow the science. Trust the science. Understand how COVID-19 spreads. I know no one wants to hear this (and trust me, I don’t want to say it again) but wash your hands often. Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds before eating, after using the restroom, after handling your mask, after leaving a public space (such as the grocery store). If you don’t have access to washing your hands right away, keep sanitizer on you. Clean and disinfect your home daily. Always cover coughs and sneezes no matter where you are. Keep track of your health and check in with your body, check your temperature and stay alert for symptoms like shortness of breath and a cough. Get the flu vaccine. According to the CDC, Healthcare systems could be overwhelmed treating both patients with flu and patients with COVID-19. So getting the flu shot is more important than ever.
Stay well, stay safe and look out for one another.
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