Our state is in a real legal pickle, all because of masks!

The public health experts tell us that in order to successfully reopen our economy, we first need to substantially reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

To contain the virus, people need to follow several basic rules which include washing hands often, distancing themselves from others outside their immediate household and covering their mouth and nose with a cloth face cover. This latter rule has become a big sticking point between the state and Georgia local governments.

The governor’s position is that wearing masks should be voluntary rather than mandatory and by executive order he has explicitly prohibited cities from enacting local ordinances to require masks.

Many Georgia local governments consider this a public health issue and have taken exception to the governor’s prohibition, especially in view of a recent dramatic rise in the number of coronavirus-related cases in the state.

In Georgia, more than 178,000 cumulative confirmed COVID-19 cases have been recorded since March, with more than 3,000 deaths, and we’re still counting.

In Walton County during that same period there have been more than 800 cases with 32 deaths.

There currently are 16 cities and counties that require their citizens to wear masks in public or in certain locations. The governor is now suing the city of Atlanta because of this issue.

The reason for the governor’s objection to mandating masks is unclear, except that he’s not ready to “cross that bridge.”

I personally don’t think it’s too much to ask our citizens to don masks in a concerted effort to control the spread of the corona virus. If our confirmed cases continue to surge, we’ll put a huge strain on our already overburdened health care system and cause thousands more deaths.

I realize masks can be a nuisance. It’s disconcerting when a masked person greets you whom you can’t recognize. If worn for long periods, masks can be hot and hard to breathe through. And you always have to remember to take one with you when you go out.

But there are some great features of masking, especially for women. Since their faces are essentially covered up, women don’t have put on as much makeup, if any. And if a woman is having a bad hair day, no one will ever know! And a woman can make a fashion statement by coordinating masks with her outfits.

I’ve been making them for family members who want a selection of masks for just that reason!

One very annoying feature of masks is they keep you from licking your fingers in the grocery store when you need some moisture to open up one of those plastic produce bags. This can easily be remedied by swiping your fingers on piece of your lettuce or other water-misted greens.

As to the question of the right kind of face covering, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends multilayered, loose fitting, washable cloth face coverings, not N-95 surgical masks which should be reserved for health care workers and other first responders.

The purpose of cloth face masks is to protect both the wearer and those around him/her from droplets that spread the infection, even by those who are asymptomatic. Many of the disposable masks available through retail stores are only good for one-time use and may not be effective in filtering out the virus.

So where do we go from here? I wish I knew. In my greater family, including parents, grandparents, children, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews and grandchildren, we’re all wearing masks. Politically we represent all shades of opinion from red to blue and back again, but we’re all on the same page with respect to masks, social distancing, staying at home and everything else we can do to help contain the virus.

I can only hope that many others in this community and elsewhere will finally recognize the severity of the problem and do the same.

Madeline Burgess lives in Social Circle. She occasionally writes for The Walton Tribune.

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