To the editor: Chester board should institute a mask mandate

Take the Chester Telegraph poll by clicking the image above: Should the Chester Select Board institute a mask mandate?

After some debate on the topic, I can only determine three core reasons that some of my fellow citizens have for not wanting a mask mandate in Chester.

a) They don’t want anyone telling them what to do.
b) They don’t believe the science telling us that masks help mitigate the transmission of Covid.
c) They don’t think Covid is anything to be concerned about contracting.
d) Some combination of the above.

Every other reason given for not wanting to instate a mask mandate for public buildings seems to be nothing but ongoing attempts to justify the aversion to being told what to do by our government. This, even though the thing being asked of us provides a clear public benefit that has been clearly laid out by the Centers for Disease Control, the World Health Organization, other public health agencies around the world, university and privately led medical science as well as statistical analyses.

I can relate to not liking being told what to do. I don’t like it much at all. Anyone who knows me well will agree with that statement. One example was my railing against the seatbelt law many years ago. I resisted by verbally opposing that law and by physically refusing to wear my seatbelt. No matter what anyone had to say about how seatbelts save lives and drastically reduce injuries in a crash, they had no business telling me what to do.

What I eventually came to realize was that my gut level reaction against being told what to do, was not a logical response since there was a clear benefit to wearing my seatbelt. Since that realization, also many years ago, I ALWAYS buckle up. Sometimes our government has to push us to take care of ourselves and each other and that’s the situation we’re in now.

I see the debate over a mask mandate in Chester as being like the seatbelt law, in that those who oppose it are reacting emotionally, not logically. Whether one understands that or not is irrelevant. The data says that when people wear
masks, the rate of Covid transmission is vastly lower than when we don’t wear them.

Stanford/Yale University Study: Surgical Masks Reduce COVID-19 Spread

The CDC says, “Correct and consistent mask use is a critical step everyone can take to prevent getting and spreading COVID-19. Masks work best when everyone wears them…”

BMJ, a Global Health Care knowledge provider that publishes over 70 medical and science journals, did a study involving hundreds of thousands of people on the impacts of various methods for mitigating the spread of the virus. That published, peer-reviewed statistical analysis concludes that the only method more effective in mitigating the spread of the Covid virus than widespread masking, is for people to isolate. That means having everyone stay at home. A lockdown. We know what that did to local businesses from our experience with it in 2020 and we can probably all agree that we don’t want to go through that again.

So, it seems that we have three choices.

  1. Mandate the wearing of masks to prompt those who won’t otherwise wear one, helping to protect Chester’s workers and business patrons.
  2. Plan to lock down again because the virus continues spreading rapidly due to a lack of adequate precautions and the hospitals are filling up.
  3. Do nothing but sit back in righteous indignation over having our government think it could tell us what to do. All the while, hoping we don’t unwittingly transmit the virus to someone we care about who then becomes seriously ill and dies.

I urge the Chester Select Board to make this tough call, even in the face of the controversy over mask wearing and over the virus itself. This is a time when bold leadership is needed. Please step up for our town and put a mask mandate in place for all public buildings.

Tim Roper

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  1. Larry Semones says:

    How and who will enforce a mandate? I’m not opposed to recommending or requesting mask usage indoors. I am opposed to mandates, regulations etc. that have no ability to be enforced. I think most will follow an indoor mask recommendation, some will not. Just as some will not follow a mandate just because.

  2. Arlene Mutschler says:

    I dont see the reason for the uproar? Masks are not a perfect solution, but it is ONE of the solutions. IF everyone got the shots, it might not be necessary. But there is a large % of people who can not or WILL not get the shots. And for the same “you can tell me what to do” reason. They’d rather be proven wrong by getting sick! 75% of those in the hospital are UNVAC! you can come in contact with it, not become sick, but be a transmitter. Mask prevent that. Simple!

  3. Tim Roper says:

    This morning I see more news regarding the importance of taking all reasonable precautions against the spread of COVID, including the widespread wearing of masks.

    From the WHO: “Tedros said the WHO is worried that countries are dismissing omicron as a mild variant. Though omicron is more contagious, it is not yet clear whether the strain causes more mild or severe disease than past variants of the virus.

    “We have learned by now that we underestimate this virus at our peril,” Tedros said. “Even if omicron does cause less severe disease, the sheer number of cases could once again overwhelm unprepared health systems,” he said.

    Tedros warned that vaccines alone will not protect countries from omicron, emphasizing the importance of masks and social distancing.

    “It’s not vaccines instead of masks. It’s not vaccines instead of distancing. It’s not vaccines instead of ventilation or hand hygiene. Do it all. Do it consistently. Do it well,” Tedros said.”

    From our neighbors in NY state: “Cornell University shuts down Ithaca campus after surge of nearly 500 Covid-19 cases detected.”

    From England: “In Britain, where the first known cases date to November 27, officials have warned of a “tidal wave” of infections associated with the variant, the number of which have been doubling every two days, they say.

    “While Omicron represents over 20% of cases in England, we’ve already seen it rise to over 44% in London and we expect it to become the dominant Covid-19 variant in the capital in the next 48 hours,” U.K. Health Secretary Sajid Javid told Parliament on Monday.”

    The vast majority of American law is based in this premise: Our personal liberties are curtailed when our actions bring injury to others. While imperfect, wearing a mask inside public buildings has been shown to protect others and since some choose to not take this simple step, a mandate is needed in Chester as has been imposed in 15 other Vermont municipalities to date.

  4. Lee Herrington says:

    Tim, you and I have politely engaged on this topic on Facebook and you left out a major point that I made.

    I pointed out masking providing a false sense of security for our at risk population. Whenever people are masked a wide variety of mask types used. Your letter points out a study on the effectiveness of surgical masks. It doesn’t point out in the ineffectiveness of other mask types. I have only been to one health appointment, in another state, where I was stopped at the door and my mask was switched out for a surgical mask.

    Nobody else is out there inspecting mask materials in our other public places. One person may wear an N95 while another wears a porous mask made of tiny beads which looks like a mask but filters nothing. Masking provides a false sense of security to those in high risk categories.

    Mrs. Barnes commented before me about how she and her husband desire universal masking because she is very concerned for their health. How many other at risk people will decide to venture out into public spaces because they feel safe with everybody masked? The different studies which have come out have shown cloth mask efficiency, in stopping viral particles, varying from 10-70% in effectiveness in preventing spread of the virus.

    Universal masking may indeed reduce spread but for somebody in poor health it does not eliminate all viral spread. They are at risk in the masked environment. I am getting weekly emails from both Ludlow Elementary and CAES because of new cases yet these students are masked whenever they are indoors. I don’t have any children at GMHS but I suspect those parents are getting regular infection notifications as well. Those children are all masked indoors, all of the time with staff stopping them if they pull down or pull off masks?

    I looked at the BDL study. It relied heavily on studies related the prevention of influenza in the past. From what I’ve read influenza particles are much larger than Covid. That might explain why cases of the flu went down to such low levels in 2000 while Covid continued to spread.

  5. agnes M barnes says:

    My husband and I are senior citizens. We have had shots and boosters. We wear masks everywhere we go. We need to protect ourselves. I truly agree the mandate is the way to go. We have to get over this thing. Everybody should be thinking of their loved ones and their neighbors. We do things every day that we don’t want to do. Please cover for everyone’s protection.