Guest Opinion: Wearing a mask is a small but essential sacrifice
I have an old black-and-white photograph of an A-20 Havoc attack squadron on a low level bombing mission in the Philippines during World War II. I was told as a child that my grandfather’s plane was in that same attack squadron, and he survived that mission and many more to pilot his A-20 home safely to his small farm and family at the end of the war. When Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941, Americans united under a common cause, and despite widespread sacrifices of food, goods including shoes, gasoline and silk and the tragic loss of over 400,000 U.S. soldiers, we fought a war on two fronts, ultimately helping defeat both Japan and Nazi Germany. This is the legacy that we are deeply proud of as Americans and truly represents “our finest hour.”
In 2020, this country is again in crisis. Over 100,000 people have died from the COVID-19 viral pandemic, and our global and national economy is in shambles. Medical providers across the country are battling this virus without a vaccine, limited antiviral and immune boosting medications and limited PPE. Our best treatment options are preventative — slowing the spread of the virus by wearing masks, washing our hands and social distancing measures. When these measures are in place, we are able to slow down the number of new cases and preserve our medical resources for treating heart attacks, strokes and cancer.
Frontline health care providers are at risk for contracting COVID-19, and we have lost colleagues and friends across the country who selflessly stood in the line of fire battling this lethal virus. It is a medical fact supported by every credible medical society in the world that wearing masks is effective at slowing the spread of this virus. As an emergency physician at Valley View Hospital, I and my colleagues wear masks every day in and out of the hospital including at the gas station, local retail businesses, gymnasium and every place where we would possibly unknowingly spread coronavirus to high-risk patients.
There are new COVID-19 incidence spikes across the country as Americans choose to ignore these guidelines. Any ambiguity regarding mask use in this community should be tempered by the knowledge that we will be overwhelmed by this virus if we cannot keep the spread of COVID-19 contained. It is possible to enjoy a meal at a local restaurant or support a retail business while wearing a face mask and following simple distancing measures. Americans that feel their personal freedoms are being infringed upon by being asked to wear a mask outside of their home to prevent the spread of coronavirus should visualize themselves in the cockpit of my grandfather’s A-20 havoc bomber in 1945 or as a medical provider in full PPE at the bedside of a critically ill COVID patient and be gently reminded of what real sacrifice is.
The medical community will continue our efforts to slow the spread of this lethal virus and we ask you as a community for unity in this effort. Please wear your mask, wash your hands frequently, and do your best to social distance while supporting our local economy and each other.
Ben Peery, MD, is medical director for emergency medicine at Valley View Hospital.
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I wrote this column to share my story through my cultural assets: Aspirational, linguistic, familial, navigational, social, and resistant. I know we all have an open wound in our lives and I want to share…