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Look past the mask

It’s official. The state of North Carolina is opening up business again. In phases, and depending on how it goes — how many positive cases of COVID-19 turn up, how many hospitalizations, how many deaths and other factors — the state will either move into the next phase or remain in limbo for a while.

Meanwhile, there’s another phenomena happening: people are picking sides in this battle between open and closed. There’s valid reasoning on both sides. Some people are hurting financially; they’ve lost their jobs. Others are concerned about spreading a virus here that is devastating the people and places it’s hit hardest.

Everyone is correct in their concerns, but no one should underestimate COVID-19. No one should slide into a false sense of security just because it hasn’t been prevalent in Beaufort County. Instead, everyone should continue to take precautions, even as the state begins reopening for business.

How many times have you heard about what precautions you should take? Many, no doubt. Washing hands well and often, using disinfectants on surfaces you touch, maintaining social distancing, keeping your outings to a minimum to cut down on exposure, wearing masks in public — in the past month and half, we’ve all been bombarded with this information. We’ve grown tired of hearing it.

But that weariness doesn’t mean we should stop doing everything we personally can to prevent the virus from spreading here.

An example of this would be the wearing of masks. It would seem that people fall into one of two categories when it comes to masks: those who wear them and those who don’t. Some argue that the wearing of masks is an imposition, one that doesn’t prevent the mask-wearer from getting the virus. That’s true, but let’s be clear on what the point of mask-wearing is.

If a person wearing a cloth mask, or even a bandana, sneezes or coughs, that covering prevents droplets from being dispersed over a greater distance. Those droplets could be carrying COVID-19, and a wider dispersal means a greater chance of another person coming into contact with the virus. When a person wears a mask, they are sending a message: if they are a carrier of COVID-19, if they have the virus, they are making the effort to prevent giving it to the people they come in contact with, whether that’s in the aisles of the grocery store, at the DMV or at the local garden center.

It doesn’t make a person weak to wear a mask. It doesn’t make them look ridiculous or paranoid. Look past the mask: as tedious as these precautions may seem, they’re an opportunity to prove our commitment to our community, to one another.