Editorial: Masks should not be about politics

A recent editorial by the Ashtabula Star Beacon:

At some point during the COVID-19 pandemic, masks became less of an inconvenience and more of a political wedge.

Someone, somewhere along the line, became convinced that being compelled to wear one in a story or a school infringed upon his God-given rights as an American citizen.

And worse, that person convinced others, who convinced others, who convinced still more people that mask mandates were the work of the devil, Karl Marx and Chairman Mao.

And once some politicians stuck a moist finger into the air and figured out which way the wind was suddenly blowing among some of their constituents, they became to see masks as a political football to be used to score points.

Then — a few months ago — we all but declared victory against COVID-19 and masks largely went away, which utterly thrilled anti-maskers.

Josh Mandel, a U.S. Senate candidate in Ohio, posted a video of himself setting fire to a mask. He was not alone, but you might call it the equivalent of celebrating a touchdown before actually reaching the end zone.

As it turned out, the Delta variant arrived on the scene as if to say, “Not so fast, my friend.”

Now COVID-19 cases are again surging, just as our children are heading back to school and college and just when we thought we were mostly finished with social distancing and making sure we had masks with us everywhere we went.

And it’s not just cases that are spiking again. Hospitalizations and deaths also are on the rise here and across the country.

Ohio reported 5,395 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday. The state hadn’t topped 5,000 cases in a day since January. On Friday, Ohio reported 70 new virus-related deaths and that 2,217 people were hospitalized with COVID-19.

So if you thought the pandemic was over, think again. And if you thought you didn’t need those masks any longer, you may want to dig them out again.

They’re still a political football to some, but we can’t understand why. Studies show that masks can prevent wearers from spreading the virus. It is also known that asymptomatic people can, in fact, spread COVID-19.

So stop kvetching about your rights. Compared to being dead, masking up is a minor inconvenience.

— Ashtabula Star Beacon, Sept. 2