Letter to the editor: The pandemic is not a question of personal rights | Opinion

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Discussion and debate over whether to wear a mask as a way to stop the spread of COVID-19 is moving through Vermont like wildfire – or, perhaps better said, like a virus.

The question comes up frequently at the governor’s weekly press conferences. Selection boards up and down the state, from Hardwick to Morristown, Stowe, Charlotte, Brattleboro and Bennington are grappling with the problem.

The governor and many others argue that the imposition of masks in public spaces and indoors would be unenforceable, counterproductive and divisive.

If a mask was required at a select committee meeting, city council, or even governor’s press conferences, someone refusing to wear one would disrupt the public meeting and could be asked to leave. If they refused, they could be withdrawn. And that doesn’t say anything about common sense.

Sometimes disagreement – dare I say division – saves lives. Division is part of life. This is not the problem.

The stake is public health and the common good. In the United States, more than 812,000 people have died from COVID-19, almost 30% more than the entire population of Vermont. Millions of people have been affected by the virus, millions more around the world have fallen ill and died. COVID-19 is contagious. COVID-19 is deadly.

Reducing COVID-19 is not about “personal rights”. The adage that one person’s rights end where another person’s nose begins seems most apt in this time of need. Scientists and healthcare professionals say the COVID-19 virus easily passes between the eyes, mouth – and nose – during inhalation and exhalation.

COVID-19 is a public health crisis and the public must act if the disease is to be controlled. It does not divide. It’s reality.

Ross Connelly is a resident of Hardwick, Vermont.


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