Guest columnists Joanne Marqusee, David Narkewicz and Kathleen McCartney: Please wear a mask

  • Mark Scheel, who works for the Northampton DPW, hangs a sign on Main Street stating that masks must be worn. gazette file photo

Not enough people in Northampton are wearing masks — not in our downtown, not on the Smith College campus, and not in our parks and bike trails.

If you are one of those people wearing masks, thank you, because it makes a difference. In an editorial in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Centers for Disease Control Director Dr. Robert R. Redfield affirmed: “Cloth face coverings are one of the most powerful weapons we have to slow and stop the spread of the virus — particularly when used universally within a community setting.”

Redfield estimates the U.S. could get COVID-19 under control in just four to six weeks if everyone wore a mask.

The good news is that western Mass currently has one of the lowest incidents of COVID-19 in the commonwealth. In fact, Cooley Dickinson Hospital has admitted very few COVID-positive patients in the last month, and the number of people in our community testing positive is low.

However, as we have seen in other states, if we don’t protect ourselves and others by engaging in scientifically-proven public health behaviors, our situation could quickly change. Each and every one of us needs to physically distance, wash our hands, and most importantly, wear a mask.

If you are like us, perhaps you are wondering why some people aren’t wearing masks, especially when the stakes are high — literally life or death for you as well as others, including people you love.

Perhaps it is because masks aren’t comfortable to wear, especially during the summer. Perhaps it’s politics, as we have seen in some states. Surely the benefits of wearing a mask outweigh discomfort and politics.

A recent forecast from the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation projects that 33,000 deaths could be avoided by October if 95% of people wore masks in public.

Education is the key. The most important action each of us can take to stop the spread of this deadly virus is to lead by example. Continue to wear a mask and talk to family and friends about why you choose to do so. Post this article, and others like it, on social media. Get the word out.

Help every member of our community understand why mask-wearing should be our default behavior when we venture outside. It takes time to build any habit, but remember that practice makes perfect.

Keeping the incidence of COVID-19 low in our community will enable the reopening of businesses and activities to continue to move forward without the reversals we have seen in so many states. It will enable students to return to school and college. And it will enable our health care system to continue to meet the health care needs of the community.

Together we can keep Northampton safe for everyone.

Joanne Marqusee is the president and chief executive officer of Cooley Dickinson Health Care. Kathleen McCartney is the president of Smith College. David Narkewicz is the mayor of Northampton.
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