Refusing to Wear Masks

I am more and more irritated with those who refuse to wear masks to protect themselves and others during the pandemic. These people—and those who refuse to be vaccinated—are endangering the health of others. I know of no reasonable argument in favor of such abuse.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has made it unmistakably clear that failure to mask and get vaccinated not only endangers one’s own health but also—and far more damning—risks the health and even the lives of others. Masks greatly reduce the likelihood of transmission of the coronavirus from the wearer to those close by. Even the vaccinated can still carry and transmit the virus, so they, too, should mask up.

Unfortunately, Donald Trump politicized the wearing of masks. He claimed that the pandemic was a hoax. It became a statement of Republican loyalty to refuse to wear a mask. That led to greater infections and lethality among Republicans than Democrats and others. Trump, in short, is responsible for the deaths of his followers who refused, at his behest, to protect themselves and died as a result.

The argument I have heard most often for refusing to wear a mask is that everybody has personal liberty and freedom of choice and that mask mandates violate the U.S. Constitution by abridging those rights. Put differently, mandatory masks violate the First Amendment right to speech, assembly, and especially association, and mandatory masks violate a person’s constitutional right to liberty and to make decisions about their own health and bodily integrity.

That argument might be defensible if only one’s own health were put at risk by failure to wear a mask. But, far more important, the absence of a mask can allow an individual to become a source of infection for all with whom he comes in contact. To maintain that one has the right to infect others is the equivalent of demanding the right to shoot guns in crowds or refuse to obey traffic laws. The Constitution gives no one the right to endanger the welfare of others.

It’s time that we as a nation pulled together and recognized our civic duty to safeguard the health of others. We should welcome a mask mandate for the good of all of us.

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