To the Editor:
Leaders wear masks. Neglecting to take this simple, inexpensive, lifesaving precaution to protect others is a failure to lead. It sets a dangerous example. It sends the message that the pandemic isn’t a big deal, even as the death toll mounts and FEMA and the VA order 100,000 additional body bags.
It was painful last week to watch Mike Pence visit the Mayo Clinic and refuse to follow its mandatory mask policy. He at first said he was unaware of the policy, a claim that lacked credibility even before Mayo said they had told him about the policy. He followed up with the rather unimpressive explanation that he should be exempt because he gets tested for the virus. It took nearly a week of public reproach for Pence to acknowledge that he should have worn a mask.
Granted, the availability of masks is a real challenge. People with sewing skills have been working overtime to supply masks to frontline workers and to the community. (Mask-making is big in my house. My wife has made and given away hundreds of masks and continues to make more.) Some people can’t get masks, but our elected officials surely can.
When elected officials refuse to lead by example and model the behavior that will bring us through this safely, they lose credibility. But more importantly, they lose an opportunity to save lives.
When the president announced the federal CDC recommendation that members of the public wear masks, he all but repudiated it by immediately announcing that he would not wear one. That move will cost lives.
Recently in Athens, a local legislator was taken to task by public health professionals for posting photos of himself in photo-ops with health-care workers – without masks and without following social distancing guidelines.
Maybe some leaders think this makes them look tough. Maybe they think it just looks better for the camera. But it really makes them look foolish – for ignoring science, for ignoring medical experts, and for ignoring the risks to our elderly and vulnerable neighbors.