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It’s simple: Stay away from each other and wear the mask

BY BRANDON SHIELDS
The Jackson Sun
Local governments across the state are beginning to mandate mask-wearing.
It shouldn’t have to come to that, but some leaders believe it has.
Local leaders in Madison County haven’t gone that far yet, but it’s being mentioned during their press briefings this week.
In May, we ran a column where I admitted I don’t wear masks because I usually do a good job of keeping my distance.
I received e-mails from people who labeled me as inconsiderate, reckless and morally reprehensible.
But this past week, I started thinking about it after hearing about college students in Alabama having parties hosted by someone with COVID-19 and essentially holding a raffle of who would get a positive confirmation first. I thought about the recklessness of those parties, the lack of consideration for older relatives among those students if they spend time around them and how those two things add up to moral reprehension.
And I had a difficult internal conversation. When I go to Wal-Mart without a mask, yes I do stay away from everyone as much as possible and I get out of there with much more quickness than I do most things in my life.
But I’m touching the self-checkout mechanism, opening doors in the freezer section, taking products off the shelves and putting them back after looking at them.
All of this while also dealing with a slight cough as I’ve gotten over bronchitis (which by the way, before I got that diagnosis, I tested negative for COVID-19).
I truly believe I’m not a danger to anyone I come in contact with, but here’s where I started to turn. I don’t have time to tell everyone I meet in Wal-Mart that information.
When I or anyone else walks in Wal-Mart without a mask, it concerns other people who have legitimate reasons to be concerned about what I could be carrying because they have compromised immune systems or live with someone who does.
So this week I started making an effort to wear my mask even when not asked to out of consideration for those people based on concern for my fellow man and my efforts to act in a Christ-like manner based on various Bible verses John 13:34-35, Philippians 2:4, 1 John 3:17-18, Colossians 3:12, Galatians 6:10, Luke 6:31, Romans 12:10 and 1 Corinthians 10:24.
If this virus isn’t as bad as feared, then nothing is lost in the long run because I wear a mask. But the potential loss is great if the virus is as bad as advertised and I do nothing.
However, there is a flip side to this coin.
Jackson-Madison County Regional Health Department Director Kim Tedford has said repeatedly over the past four months that nothing stops the spread of the virus more than social distancing. Masks help some, but they’re not as good as social distancing.
I don’t think that the sharp rise in positive cases in Madison County over the past week should be much of a shock when you take into consideration all the events that have happened recently where social distancing was not happening – whether or not masks were being worn.
Black Lives Matter protests, Jackson Transit Authority bus unveilings, Senate candidate campaign stops and the reception this week for Marlon King at Jackson-Madison County Schools’ Central Office were all full of people wearing masks but not much distancing going on.
I know many churches have returned to in-building services in recent weeks, and I know many church staffs are doing their best to keep their buildings disinfected and keep their congregants from being in position to pass the virus on. But they can only mandate so much.
Jackson and West Tennessee have missed out on the entire spring and early summer schedule of festivals, high school spring sports, all of the social events and high-profile fundraisers that typically happen in the spring, Snoop Dogg, Charlie Daniels, other concerts, minor league baseball, most of Major League Baseball and now high school and college football are being threatened in the fall with the limbo schools are in while figuring out what returning to school looks like.
So I’ve joined the people wearing masks, and it was uncomfortable, but nowhere near as uncomfortable as the death of a loved one that could’ve been prevented.
I hope the people wearing masks will join me in staying away from each other.
Because it will take both to put the brakes on the spread, and none of us want to be in the situation where the government at any level is mandating it.
(Brandon Shields is the editor of The Jackson Sun. Reach him at bjshields@jacksonsun.com or at 731-425-9751.)