No one likes mandates, but masking up makes sense for all

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To wear or not to wear a mask? That is the question of our day, and the subject of often emotional debate across our community, state and nation.
Now in the fifth month of a global pandemic, opinions on how to limit or stop the spread of the coronavirus are all over the board, with much of the attention focused lately on the volunteer, suggested, or in some cases mandated use of face coverings.
How do you feel about masks? The News-Register decided to take the temperature of the local community on this issue, asking a series of related questions in a SurveyMonkey online poll. Nearly 250 people responded, reflecting a wide variety of opinion, but no clear consensus. (See related story on page A1 of this edition)
What was clear, in scanning through the comments served up by local participants, is that there is a growing lack of trust in the information being provided on an urgent healthcare topic that has turned all too political.
Indeed it is hard to know what source you can fully trust these days. That is partly because even what appear to be credible sources of science- or medical-based reporting are attacked from main stream media and/or political leaders. That doesn’t help those trying to sift through the chaff to find information they can trust to help make personal decisions for their families.
As co-publisher of this weekly newspaper, I can promise you that our news staff is working hard to provide COVID-related coverage with local stories based on input from credible local sources. Many readers have told us that the use of local sources ramps their trust factor up significantly, though as this survey suggests there are still huge differences of opinion on the mask issue.
I agree with the slim majority of our survey respondents who say masks should be worn in public. I have to admit that I don’t mask up everywhere I go, but try to be consistent in places like the grocery store, medical facilities and when covering events where others are wearing face coverings.
In concept, I am against mandated mask policies, though the recent spike in numbers across the country makes me realize that it may soon be a necessary evil, even here in Nebraska. The city of Lincoln took that step a week ago and last I read Omaha was considering the same.
The tougher call involves our local school systems. I can’t imagine being an elementary educator trying to police mask use among young children. On the other hand, if positive test results in a single classroom force that entire class, as well as teachers, to quarantine for two weeks, it’s hard to envision how fall classes could carry on, long-term, without being disrupted time and time and time again.
At school, work or home, we should be taking whatever proactive measures we can to reduce the spread of this virus. Though the facts on that question remain debatable, wearing a mask is the safest thing we can do, and the best approach available for keeping our kids in school.
Kurt Johnson

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