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Sunday, May 24, 2020

Dear Mike Pence, please don’t mask the issue

Bellingham Doctor explains why wearing masks is so important

An illustration a “masked” superhero. // Illustration Courtesy of Impulse Souvenirs / Cory M Dean, LLC

Opinion

By Christopher O’Neill

It’s trending. Vice President Mike Pence’s smiling, mask-less face as he bumped elbows “safely” with representatives of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota during a tour of their hospital on April 28. This is where “face-palm” emojis would normally follow, but for the sake of this article you’ll have to use your imagination. 

I was disappointed in the lack of solidarity displayed by one of our nation’s leaders, especially during a time when a unified front is so crucial, so I decided to ask local professionals to shed light on the issue. 

“Wearing masks is a good gesture to other members of our community that you are aware of the potential for spreading COVID-19 and are taking steps to try and help prevent it,” said Dr. James Hopper, chief medical officer at Family Care Network in Bellingham. 

Hopper divided masks into three general categories: N-95 masks, surgical masks and the more readily available cloth or do-it-yourself masks being used by the public.       

“The so-called N-95 masks are a high filtration mask that when fit correctly, protects the wearer from particles and aerosol contamination of the airways,” Hopper said. “The so-called surgical mask, which is the non-woven paper-type mask, offers some protection for the wearer from droplet spread but not aerosol spread.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control website, these two types of masks should be reserved for health care professionals and other medical first responders. This is due to their scarcity during the pandemic.

Hopper said although the homemade masks or other options more readily available to the public aren’t as effective, they are certainly worthwhile. 

“When consistently used by the population, they decrease the potential spread from the wearer to others if the wearer happens to be ill and unaware of it,” Hopper said. 

Hopper said the masks also remind the wearer not to touch their face. “Hand-to-face contact after touching a common surface is the primary way that respiratory viruses are spread,” Hopper said.

Michelle Loewen, a home care assistant and resident of Custer, said that she’s not a medical professional, but she still understands the importance of using masks properly.“If you’re doing up-close work like a shower or bath or feeding [clients], you have to wear a mask because you’re in that space,” Loewen said. 

Loewen said she also wears a mask when taking trips to the store. “Truthfully, it took me a while to get used to it, but I do it because I have a high-risk husband at home,” Loewen said.

Travis Bundy, Western graduate and graphic designer at Impulse Souvenirs in Tukwila, also recognized the benefits of wearing a mask and recently designed an illustration promoting awareness.

“I’m willing to take steps in my own personal life to acknowledge it and show solidarity,” Bundy said. “I want to do anything I can, but I also want to do the right thing.”

Bundy said he created the illustration while trying to come up with sticker ideas for Impulse Souvenirs.

“We live in a meme culture,” Bundy said. “We’re going off the things that people have come up with, very clever people, and I’m coming up with visuals to that idea.”

Bundy said that he wanted to show support for all the professionals on the front lines of the pandemic while promoting positivity.

“I do my best to only promote positive posts, things that will inspire people, things that will keep their minds on positive things going on in the world,” Bundy said. “There’s enough negative things out there so I try to offset that.”

Vice President Mike Pence has since recognized his error in judgment by making a statement on Fox News. “I should’ve worn the mask at the mayo clinic.” Pence said. He went on further to say that he commended Americans for doing the same. 

Good on you Mr. Vice President. I know it’s a tragedy to miss an opportunity to show off your pearly whites, but I’m glad you understand that presenting yourself as a leader who understands why these safety measures are so necessary is more important. Thanks for taking a cue from people like Bundy and showing the American public that, “Real Heroes Wear Masks.”

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