Wearing a mask has been politicized. That’s a shame, because COVID-19 doesn’t care if you lean left or right, or keep firmly to the center.

“As we continue to safely reopen, it is important to remember that this crisis is still not behind us,” Gov. Larry Hogan said in a Thursday statement. “More than 65,000 Marylanders have been infected, and more than 3,000 Marylanders have now lost their lives to this deadly virus.” That same day, the state’s Department of Health announced the start of the #MasksOnMaryland social media campaign, geared toward encouraging residents to continue wearing protective coverings as the summer months unfold.

West Virginia’s case count is still climbing, but Gov. Jim Justice has failed to enact a mask order. On Monday, he called the concept “divisive.” While the state is below the World Health Organization-recommended threshold of 5% new positive cases daily, it was identified Wednesday by the Kaiser Family Foundation as a COVID-19 hotspot, based on percent changes in both reported daily cases and positive tests returned between June 8 and June 22.

At recent meetings in Mineral County, West Virginia — for the county commission and Keyser City Council, specifically — reporter Lindsay Renner-Wood noted that none of the elected officials in either body wore masks. While the commissioners were safely distanced from one another in the courtroom, the members of the Keyser council were seated, at most, two feet apart on the dais.

Some citizen attendees of Mineral’s meeting wore masks while in the courtroom. Of the 25 people there at the Keyser meeting, including the council and city staff, Renner-Wood was the only one who wore a mask. Uncomfortable with the amount of people present in the small room, she chose to leave the meeting early, despite wanting to be present for some of the evening’s items for discussion.

Mayor Damon Tillman mandated that the council discontinue meeting virtually during their May 14 meeting, at which time he said “this whole political game and COVID-19 stuff” had been exaggerated.

“I truly believe it (COVID-19) was blown out of proportion by the media,” Tillman said at the time of the pandemic that had killed more than 483,000 people and infected more than 9.4 million globally as of Thursday afternoon. The United States currently leads the world in confirmed cases.

Mineral County has seen its count increase, albeit not at the same rate as some other counties. Maryland’s numbers are tentatively promising, but it’s far from the time for complacency, as Gov. Hogan said earlier in the week. Allegany County didn’t see new cases for a week, before reporting 10 between Monday and Wednesday.

Although some say masks have no efficacy at preventing the spread of COVID-19, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in April that a number of recent studies have proved the opposite. According to its website, people can spread the disease before they ever begin showing symptoms, and some folks never develop them at all but can still spread it.

“This means that the virus can spread between people interacting in close proximity — for example, speaking, coughing, or sneezing — even if those people are not exhibiting symptoms,” they write. “In light of this new evidence, CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain ... especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.”

We fail to see what is “divisive” about something intended to curb the spread of disease and, by extension, save lives.

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