One of the most frustrating aspects of the COVID-19 virus is the sense of helplessness most people feel.
Like in a sci-fi movie, we know an other-worldly invader is on the loose, have seen the destruction it has wrought elsewhere and fearfully await its attempt to destroy us.
We don’t know whose immune systems will be able to fight off the coronavirus and whose won’t, even among young people. Our hand washing and hovering inside is vital – but it’s not enough.
One thing all of us can do to protect ourselves and those around us is to immediately start wearing facemasks every time we leave our homes.
Instead of being passive, we can be proactive. Alexandria is renowned as a generous, caring community, and the best ways to show that concern for others right now are to practice social distancing and wear a facemask.
Facemasks are essential in stopping the spread of COVID-19, because it appears a phenomenally high percentage of those infected are asymptomatic. Most estimates now start at 25 percent, and some say up to 50 percent of those infected may have no symptoms. Because widespread testing is not available right now, we really can’t know the exact number.
Gov. Ralph Northam said in his April 3 news conference that a nursing home in Richmond has suffered a COVID-19 outbreak. As of press time, the death total is up to 32. Out of 92 total cases, 53 were asymptomatic. That’s 58 percent of an elderly population that were virus carriers without symptoms.
The implications of those numbers are staggering.
It means you, or your child or your spouse, could unknowingly have the coronavirus. It means you could be passing the virus to others every time you go for a walk, buy groceries or pick up a prescription. It means we have to get beyond the fact that facemasks are uncomfortable and unflattering.
Unfortunately, it also means that everyone working in food service at restaurants and grocery stores, cashiers at pharmacies, public safety officers and certainly health care workers could be carrying the virus. While we’re confident that medical workers are taking all precautions against the spread of COVID-19, we are less certain about the other sectors.
Northam needs to mandate that all workers in Virginia who deal with the public or prepare or package food wear facemasks while on the job.
Restaurants are relying on the patronage of their customers to order takeout or delivery – or buy gift cards – to get them through this time. They could protect those loyal customers, and probably boost their businesses, if they would pledge to have 100 percent of workers wear facemasks at all times.
In an effort to encourage facemask wearing, the Alexandria Times is launching a campaign called “Wear a mask. Save a life.”
In the coming weeks, we will be running photos of Alexandria’s leaders wearing facemasks and will give local restaurant gift cards to readers who can correctly identify those masked leaders. We will publicize this campaign in our paper and on social media.
We will also offer local restaurants and grocery stores the chance to publicly state that they will require their employees to wear facemasks – and that they will enforce the requirement – at least through June 10 or the conclusion of Northam’s stay at home order.
The establishments that take that pledge, which is unenforceable by us but a statement of trust, will be listed in a special section in each Times. We will also provide a printable flier that restaurants can hang on their front doors saying they have taken the facemask pledge.
During these uncertain times, it would be wonderful if a superhuman Avenger character would appear to save us from this fearful invader. But by being merely human, we can each make a difference.
Wear a mask. Save a life.