Holly Richardson: For crying out loud, wear the damn mask

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Mary Kendall Hegland wears a mask as she walks on Main Street with her daughter Brecken and her dog Boone in downtown Salt Lake City on Friday, June 26, 2020.

Oh, Utah. Land of the free-spirited, like the wild mustangs that still run across some of Utah’s desert plains. We pride ourselves on our individualism here. No one is the boss of us!

Even at the expense of others' health.

Wearing a mask for other people is just a bridge too far.

I’ll admit, as a pro-life Republican, it’s a bit of a head-scratcher to suddenly hear other pro-life people yelling “My body, my choice!” Or comparing mask-wearing requests, or even mandates, to killing millions of people in the Holocaust. (And, no, being asked to wear a mask does not violate the U.S. Constitution.)

Church leaders of many denominations have asked their followers to show love for their neighbors and fellowmen by wearing a mask. Government officials have asked Utahns to wear masks. Celebrities have made it “cool” to wear masks. But, alas. It just seems too hard.

Utah is not the only state where COVID-19 rates are surging. Florida and Texas, both red states like Utah, are shutting down businesses because they could not get their residents to voluntarily wear masks. Wearing masks keeps the economy open. It’s so simple, really.

Viktor Frankl, author of “Man’s Search for Meaning” and a Holocaust survivor, noted that “Freedom is in danger of degenerating into mere arbitrariness unless it is lived in terms of responsibleness. That is why I recommend that the Statue of Liberty on the East Coast be supplemented by a Statue of Responsibility on the West Coast.”

Freedom without responsibility is anarchy. We need both.

And let’s just be frank — not everything is about you. We’re all in this together.

I know some of you are saying it can’t happen to you, right? Or you actually want to get the virus and “get it over with.” But this isn’t chicken pox, yo. And, no, it’s not the flu.

In spite of the politicalization of both the virus and the mask-wearing, here’s the weird thing about viruses: They really don’t care what political party you belong to.

COVID-19 infected Democrat Ben McAdams and Republican gubernatorial candidate Jon Huntsman, his wife and numerous staffers. It infected a friend of mine whose daughter was exposed at work and another who is a physician. It has now infected over 20,000 Utahns, almost 2.5 million in the United States and pushing 10 million worldwide.

Proposing plans that say the vulnerable can just stay home is not reasonable. One, it’s cruel to suggest that vulnerable people must avoid human contact or risk their lives. Two, “staying home” doesn’t actually protect them if there is any contact with the outside world.

Let me give you an example. One of my friends has a son with cardiovascular and respiratory issues. He has a home health nurse, who is impeccable in her use of mask, gloves and hand sanitizer around her young charge. Her husband wears a mask at work, but a number of other employees do not. One employee tested positive and both the nurse and her husband had to be tested. If she had tested positive and infected my friend’s son, he’d be dead.

I know that the death rate in Utah is low (although it surely will rise if the ICUs fill up). I know that most people recover. I’m a firm believer in local control and not in one-size-fits all. But we need to do this together. Do it for love. Do it for your grandma. Do it because you support re-opening the economy. And the schools.

But for crying out loud. Wear the damn mask.

Holly Richardson

Holly Richardson is a regular contributor to The Salt Lake Tribune.