When it comes to fighting COVID-19, there is no dispute about what people should be doing. Practice social distancing. Wash your hands. And wear a mask.
Public health experts have said since April, at least, that yes, people should wear masks. Governor Kate Brown recently demanded that people wear masks in indoor public spaces across the state.
The application is lax. Governor Brown does not want local police to impose masks. The Oregon Alcohol Control Commission and Oregon Occupational Safety and Health enforce certain measures. Most of the time it fell on the employees of the stores and restaurants. This puts a lot of pressure on the employees. Unfairly. It would be better if the Oregonians didn’t put employees in that position. Please be patient with these employees.
Some people refuse to wear masks. They try to dig holes in the medical / scientific arguments. They don’t believe the danger of COVID-19 is great enough. They bristle under what they perceive as a challenge to freedom. There is quarantine fatigue. And some see a mysterious plot.
We have no wonderful argument for converting the unmasked. As economists and psychologists have researched novelists have written and as we all know people don’t always make the most logical decisions even with the best information. Besieging your fellow customers in a store with shame or harm reduction arguments isn’t likely to do that. To lean into Rawlsian arguments about the original position and a veil of ignorance is likely to crumble, although that is curious to watch. A good joke can sometimes cut through the bullseye: remember, every disaster movie starts with people not listening to a scientist. We doubt that will work either.
COVID-19 has been the boss. He looted jobs and businesses. He kicked the children out of school. This triggered the hoarding of toilet paper. It made us all rethink what is most important among the important and unimportant things.
And it has also put many of us in an awkward and possibly dangerous position in a store or restaurant. Take the simple step. Do your part. Wear your mask. If you don’t feel safe in one store, go to another or come back later. You shouldn’t have to do this. We don’t want you to have to do this. But, at least for now, it’s unfair to expect store or restaurant workers to be experts in implementing a new public health mandate without more training and support.