Local Covid-19 numbers are on the rise and the slow response from the people we expect to be leaders disproportionately hurts those most disadvantaged in our community. Mask wearing has become a political issue instead of a basic preventative measure that would keep our families, community, and economy healthier. Those championing personal freedom who oppose our government taking action to slow the spread of the virus are neglecting the freedoms of everyone else around them. People should have the right to do just about anything they please until it begins to affect the lives of others. Since masks do more to prevent the wearer from spreading a virus to others than they do as a personal protectant, those advocating for their own freedom of choice about masks are harming the health and freedom of everyone else they encounter.

Often the refrain is, “stay home and protect yourself if you are worried or vulnerable,” but few people have the privilege of being able to isolate themselves like that. Most working people have to keep clocking in every day and don’t have jobs or bank accounts that allow them to take extended periods of time off because they are concerned for their and their community’s health. They can wear a mask on their own face, but this does less to protect them than if everyone else was wearing a mask. Also, it is unfair to demand those who are concerned or who are considerate of others to be required to hide out at home for months on end so that some can avoid the minor disturbance of wearing a mask.

Since masks have become a political issue anyone expecting others to wear a mask has to try to explain why their understanding of Covid-19 should trump another’s personal belief that no power should be able to dictate how they live their life. Our local officials should take the burden off of individual citizens or businesses from having to explain why they want to be safe and enact a policy that makes the wearing of masks the rule for places where social distancing is impossible, especially indoors. The lack of action from the county commissioners on the SIPH board in the face of record Covid cases suggests that they don’t take this virus seriously and are more concerned with not disturbing the current order and their reelection prospects than they are about doing what is best for the health and well-being of the community. Since we don’t have another election for a year, hopefully some politicians will do what is right and choose to protect the health and economy of our city even if it upsets some constituents.

I want to live in a community that values others’ health and safety rather than one that enables individuals to freely or carelessly do anything they choose. I want to live in a community that doesn’t expect older or more vulnerable people to put their lives on hold so those of us blessed with youth and health can avoid the minor inconvenience of wearing a mask. Wearing a cloth face covering is a small price to pay to protect the health of our city and keep our businesses open.

Christopher Williams, 

Pocatello