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Column: Newsom’s new mask order won’t sit well with the resistance. I know. They’re packing my inbox

California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s Thursday order for everyone in the state to wear a face covering while in public or high-risk settings is going to be cheered and jeered, guaranteed.

I know this because that’s what happened to me after my Wednesday column about why some people resist wearing masks, even as COVID-19 infections and deaths continue to rise.

A reader named Paul had this to say:

“I think you should have used some stronger language than you did: call these folks selfish.”

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But a reader named Robert was definitely a jeerer.

“Take a look in the mirror. In your case a mask is a good thing.”

That’s not nice. And Robert, who was just getting warmed up, went on to say:

“My wife and I both visited our physicians in the past week. Both advised to avoid wearing masks as much as possible. These are real doctors, not the ones you visit in the park down the alley behind the liquor store. Choke on your own mask dumbass!”

My doctor’s office is not in an alley, but I do need a drink. Maybe it will help get me through my inbox in this crazy time when so many people have worked themselves into a lather of defiance over a simple precautionary procedure that can save lives.

This is their brave and noble crusade? They’re anti-mask?

The good news — for me, at least — is that most of the people who responded to my column were not rooting for me to choke on a mask. Readers by and large shared my disdain for the resistance movement, and offered their own explanation for what’s going on.

“I am convinced the problem stems from a true lack of leadership on a national level,” wrote Howard. “When the president … refuses to wear a mask or social distance, it leaves the door open for millions of Americans to take off their masks and follow his lead…. People see stories of ‘reopening’ and … think the virus is adhering to man-made declarations.”

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I think Howard is on to something there.

This is not the age of enlightenment, folks.

We’ve got a president who ignores the advice of his own public health experts and thinks we should look into injecting Lysol to beat back the coronavirus. And yet the loyal masses are expected to swarm a Trump rally Saturday in Tulsa despite pleas of local health officials to cancel.

Yes, we do need to get people back to work, but in much of the country, we could not be much dumber about how we’re reopening. You see mob scenes everywhere, with unmasked revelers shoulder to shoulder.

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Several readers noted that massive demonstrations against police brutality may have added to the spread of the coronavirus. That’s surely possible, but I saw lots of masks out there at the protests. And there’s no disputing that COVID-19 cases are soaring in some states that trampled sensible protocols for reopening gradually and intelligently.

California is no gold medal winner in this regard, which is one reason Newsom went from nice guy to tough guy on Thursday.

“Simply put, we are seeing too many people with faces uncovered — putting at risk the real progress we have made in fighting the disease,” the governor said.

A lot of my readers feel the same way.

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“I live in Orange County and have been asking myself why so many people are not wearing masks,” said Shannon. “Personally, I care enough to wear a mask to protect others and get angry at the stupidity of those who don’t. I … have a child that works at Starbucks and she worries all the time that the people who don’t bother to wear a mask may be giving her COVID and in turn infect our family.”

Speaking of Orange County, a reader named Diane had something to say about the item in my column on the public health director who resigned after she received a death threat and was compared to Hitler for requiring face coverings.

“As the daughter of Holocaust survivors who suffered under the real Hitler, I am doubly appalled by the idiots who have the gall to compare the former head of the Orange County health agency, who was simply following the best medical knowledge, to the person who caused the death of millions,” said Diane. “Unbelievable.”

A reader named Jackie said she and her husband are in their 70s and keeping indoors for the most part.

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“I can’t believe how much ageism is on full display regarding COVID-19. Younger folks, especially, are seen all over the U.S., without masks, drinking, partying, or going about their daily activities as if nothing is wrong,” said Jackie, who thinks that’s going to delay a full recovery.

“I see our self-isolation extending way into the future, with no end in sight,” she said.

From across the divide, a reader named Jim seems to think that if not for Trump’s leadership we would have seen 2 million deaths by now, and guess what:

I did just choke on my mask.

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Bob said it’s time to open everything without restrictions. The impact won’t be that bad, in his opinion.

“Those under 40 might get a slight cough,” said Bob, who must go to the same doctor as Robert, who wants me to choke on my mask. “The 40-65 group might need a few days off. Those older than 65 will have to make a risk assessment if they have an underlying condition.”

Just a reminder: We are approaching 120,000 deaths in the U.S.

Jon called me one of the “pro muzzlers,” said he was going on a 35-mile bike ride without a mask, and suggested there’d be more compliance if I wasn’t such a fascist.

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Actually, Jon, I wouldn’t wear a mask on a bike ride or taking a walk in the woods, if I could stay far away from other people. But in settings where you can’t social distance, is it that much of a sacrifice to protect someone near you in the event you might be positive but asymptomatic?

Louise called herself an elder who wears a mask and gloves when she goes outside, but thinks that the threat of the disease is overstated and that the spread of the virus among young people will lead to immunity for all.

“I feel that in the big scheme of life the pandemic is really a panic-demic,” she said.

It’s a nice idea, and similar to the approach in Sweden, but the latest statistics from that country are not terribly encouraging.

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“Nobody has a clue about the true infection/exposure rate,” argued Tim. “The most frequent statistic I have read is that 80% of COVID-19 exposures are either mild or asymptomatic. The death rate is therefore quite low.”

But if we know that distancing, hand washing and face covering can prevent spread and save lives, why do we have to be such hardheads?

A study from Germany found that the use of masks after wearing them became compulsory reduced the spread of COVID there. And another new study estimates that in New York City, the use of masks prevented 66,000 additional cases of COVID-19.

The virus attacks the lungs of those who contract it. But its very presence among us also seems to be destroying common sense and consideration of others.

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“I have a cousin who won’t wear a mask because he says it’s unconstitutional. It takes away his right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” said a reader named Rick, who added one last word.

“WOW.”

steve.lopez@latimes.com


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