Opinion: She proclaimed her refusal to wear a mask and trumpeted her BMI. Readers pounced

A man sells masks for $5 each on the street in Echo Park on April 3.
A man sells masks for $5 each in Echo Park on April 3.
(Los Angeles Times)

Well, that escalated quickly: In response to a letter writer who boasted of her optimal BMI and healthy eating habits and bristled at a columnist admonishing Angelenos to mask up for public safety, nearly 60 readers expressed their dismay over what many of them described as the writer’s callous indifference to public health.

Among those responses were a few that asked a question frequently heard when a piece is universally condemned: Why did you even bother to publish it? Two reasons: First, many readers have wondered why so many people resist wearing masks, and this letter provided an answer (an unsatisfying one, yes, but an answer); and second, there’s always an opportunity for aggrieved readers to express their opinions in response, and for me to acknowledge the concentration of those responses on one side, both of which are being done here.

Martha Strapac of Bellflower isn’t so sure of the letter writer’s wellness strategy:


I was appalled when I read this letter. Although there is evidence suggesting obese patients are at greater risk of dying from COVID-19, the link has not been fully established.

Certainly, there is nothing wrong with maintaining a healthy weight, eating well, exercising and taking vitamins, but it is not a magic formula. A great deal of people would benefit from eating well and exercising, but it is dangerous to suggest that diet and exercise are the answers to dying from the coronavirus.

I would be happy to dismiss this person’s opinions, except I fear that discontinuing the wearing of masks could become a trend among people who maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Frankly, I think that refusing to wear a face covering for any reason is an act of selfishness.

Dawn Halloran of North Hollywood makes a similar point:

The letter writer is to be commended for her commitment to her health. However, her fitness will not save her from a virus. It may mitigate the severity, but it doesn’t protect her from contracting the disease.


She’s the perfect example of a person who needs a mask the most — those who have no reason to believe they are sick but can infect others.

A good friend — a nearly lifelong vegetarian who has never smoked, has no underlying medical conditions and exercises daily — was hospitalized for more than a week when he contracted COVID-19. He survived, but at tremendous cost both financial and physical.

It’s unfortunate that the writer doesn’t understand that any amount of personal diligence may not save her, nor those she comes in contact with, from this terrible disease.

Gary Miller of Indio offers backhanded praise:

Brava to the letter writer for defending her right to not wear a mask!

A global review of 172 studies from 16 countries confirmed anecdotal evidence that wearing a face covering appears to reduce your risk of spreading the virus by up to 85%. So while 35% of those infected are asymptomatic, the letter writer can tell her unfit, immune-defective family and friends that she had the constitutional right to infect them.

San Pedro resident Marie Matthews warns of people with weakened immune systems:

If I was 20 years old I might agree with the writer. But I am 77. I eat a plant-based diet, take my vitamins and exercise. People who see me think I am doing well for my age.

This clean living did not prevent me from getting breast cancer at a fairly young age and having to go through chemotherapy. It left me with a weakened immune system.

Since we cannot find N95 masks, my face covering cannot filter out every viral particle. This is why other people wearing masks really helps.

We live in this world together. We need each other. Wearing a mask is the most important thing people can do right now to help fight this pandemic.

Cheryl Clark of Long Beach wasn’t the only reader to mention the “Karen” meme:

While I hate the meme “Karen” to describe self-satisfied, know-it-all women, it certainly applies to this letter writer. I can see her smirking as she wrote this, telling us all how to be as wonderful as she.

Why should she wear a mask when she’s thin, physically active and wearing a FitBit? A Boomer like me can maybe afford the FitBit, but don’t think I’ll be skinny and running laps again.

I guess that’s how the smarter-than-thou types look at the coronavirus: a chance to get rid of the weak ones.