Local View: Wearing a mask shows you care about others


I was very struck by the June 16 “Local View” column, “‘I will not be masked.’” Its primary argument was that workplaces should trust workers to know when they’re sick rather than requiring them to wear masks all the time as part of their job.

The trouble with this is that we cannot know when we are carriers of the coronavirus in either the pre-symptomatic or asymptomatic phases. Those who become ill may be contagious two to 10 days before experiencing any symptoms. Furthermore, roughly 30% of the infected population will never experience any symptoms at all, and yet will be contagious for about a week.

I certainly trust that the writer of the column and other workers know when they feel sick, but nobody can magically sense the virus during pre-symptomatic and asymptomatic phases. That’s why masks have been shown in several studies to be effective in stemming the spread of the disease.

My second concern with the commentary was the way it compared being required to wear a mask with having your body controlled by others. Many workplaces with high risk of transmitting infection have long required employees to wear masks, not as a matter of control, but for everyone’s safety.

I practiced dentistry for 39 years in Duluth, and I wore a mask every day to protect my patients. Requiring basic safety precautions has always been an important pillar of public health.


There are certainly important contexts in which we must all be able to control our bodies, but imagine giving surgeons the choice to not wear masks in the operating room. Or imagine the lives that would be lost if we didn’t require children to be in car seats.

The column writer, Jubilee Bond, a fitness professional, seems to think that personal freedom should be prioritized at any cost. But our country has a long and important history of balancing this freedom with collective safety. Because of this very serious and contagious disease, there are simply far more workplaces — beyond those in health care settings — that are high risk for transmission right now, making it good public policy to require masks.

Finally, I understand that having to wear masks in daily life is not what this writer — or any of us (except those in certain health care settings) — signed up for. It may feel somewhat uncomfortable or anti-social at first, and it takes some getting used to. My hope is that we can all put this in perspective and think about how small this cost is compared with the benefits and remember the service we provide others when we put on our masks.

Masks protect us somewhat — but they are even more effective at protecting others from us.

We are living in a moment when it is so important to think beyond our own individual freedoms to our collective well-being. Think of the far greater sacrifices we made together during World War II, for example. Putting on a mask is a small gesture of sacrifice we make for our fellow human beings; and when workplaces require it, it is a gesture they ask their employees to make so that they can get back to work safely and serve their clients safely.

I thank those employers who ask this of their staff — and the staff who comply, since it makes me feel safe to patronize their businesses, spend my money there, and keep them open.

Wearing a mask does not show you are afraid. On the contrary, it shows you care about those around you, especially the elderly, those who are medically compromised, and those who live or work with vulnerable individuals and communities.

Those who don’t wear masks do not seem brave or bold or free to me. Instead, they seem selfishly unwilling to inconvenience themselves a bit for the safety of all of us, not to mention a speedier return to normal.


I am no longer in a position that requires me to wear a mask; but whenever I’m in an enclosed public space, I do — over my mouth and my nose. Without covering both, there’s not much point.

I don’t wear a mask for myself. I wear it because I care about you. I don’t wear a mask because I am afraid or enjoy the restrictions of quarantine. I wear it because I want us all to get back to work and normal activities as quickly and safely as possible.

While we are living with this dangerous disease, let’s be a thoughtful community. Let’s care for one another and wear our masks with generosity. I will gladly be masked.

Dr. Kim Chart practiced dentistry in Duluth for 39 years.

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