At my second Town of Lamar Council Meeting, my colleagues outvoted me 4-1 to renew Lamar’s mask ordinance for another sixty days. They also shot down my proposal that we reopen council meetings to the public, who can currently only attend online via Facebook Live and Zoom.
That’s precisely what I expected to happen, and I appreciate their reasons: concerns about safety, etc. The big, lingering question—one I can’t get out of my mind—is “when does it end?” At what point are we safe “enough” to remove our masks?
Car crashes kill around 36,000 Americans a year. If saving “just one life” is the criteria—as one of my fellow council members emoted during Monday night’s meeting—for keeping the mask ordinance in place, then why don’t we ban cars in town?
The answer, of course, is because it’s absurd. We all recognize (I hope) that the benefits of the internal combustion engine and easy mobility far outstrip the unfortunate fatalities that sometime accompany motor vehicle operations.
Similarly, does cloistering ourselves away into isolated nooks, venturing out only for food and fuel, bedecked in literal and symbolic muzzles, make it worthwhile? Does shutting down the entire economy, throwing the nation into an economic death spiral, justify saving “just one life”?
The loss of life is tragic, and I don’t mean to make light of it. It is, however, the way of things—it’s the one thing, along with coming into this world, that we’ll all do.
But back to that original question: when does it end? At what point do the public health commissars say, “Okay, we’re good. Life can resume as normal?” The CDC is saying now that even fully-vaccinated people should continue wearing masks and should keep social distancing.
I fear the answer is that nothing will ever be enough. When does a sixty-day extension—or “two weeks to flatten the curve”—become forever?
Because it’s already starting to feel that way.
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