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This pandemic has my mind in a whirl. Before school started, my daughter posted pictures of her children wearing the newest addition to their wardrobe – face masks. “Wear a mask. Go to school. Study there.”

Inconvenient. Yes. Mandatory. Yes. Well, except for Katie, who is only 4. She does not have to wear a mask unless she wants. Mostly the child does not want a mask. Not until the day she pulled one over her entire face covering her eyes. Her mother and sisters lead her through the store with her face totally covered. She found it funny that day and never wanted to wear one any other time, not in any way, shape or form.

She is quite unlike Famous Wood, 10, who decided to wear a mask all the time in school to protect himself and other students. Such a noble idea. An idea that the staff at his school in Smethwick in Great Britain did not honor. So every day, since school reopened, he has been turned away at the door for – get this – wearing a mask, according to BPM Media. The school insists he can’t come into the school with a mask. “They say he can’t wear it because the Government guidelines say kids under 11 don’t need to wear one and they just made it a rule.” his father said.

To mask or not to mask, that is the question. Whether tis nobler in the human mind to suffer the discomforts of the disease or to take arms against the pandemic and wear a mask. The resolution to that question confuses me when I consider the football players. Sitting quietly in a classroom, the players must wear masks. Put them on the football field, have them run like crazy, pant in each others’ faces as they huddle over the next play and no one wears a mask.

For me the issue comes every time I approach a store. I have heard more people remind me to put on a mask than tell me I don’t need to wear one.

This year, we have gone to stores with and without our face masks. Sometimes it takes seeing the sign on the door “Must have mask” for us to remember. We turn around and go back to the car for the neglected mask. I have seen stores with roped off doors mandating one door for entrance and the other for exit. Monitors made sure we walked as instructed. A couple weeks later the ropes disappeared and a box of masks might sit on a window ledge for anyone who wanted one. No one monitored entrances or exits.

Recently we traveled to Detroit, Michigan and ate in several restaurants. Of the four we visited in Michigan, three treated our visit as if there were no pandemic except having fewer tables. The fourth insisted on masks, had roped off benches and asked that we leave our names, phone numbers and time of entering the dining room to assist contact tracing if a customer developed Covid.

Consistency might help. In April, South Korea introduced what was considered one of the largest and best organized epidemic control programs in the world, along with Singapore, Taiwan and Vietnam. They used masks and contact tracing. In 2003 while in Taiwan, I saw the epidemic control program at work during the SARS epidemic. We had checks before boarding public transportation, face masks at the airports and temperature readings. Evidently it worked. With all the consistency I knew what to expect every time. My mind did not whirl in confusion and we arrived home healthy. Something we definitely need to consider in this country.

Joan Hershberger is a former staff writer for the El Dorado News-Times and author of “Twenty Gallons of Milk and other columns from the El Dorado News-Times.”

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