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Mask: What you can do for your country

I would be more “Loyal to Local” if “local” was more loyal to me. Your Wisconsin town or city is probably like mine — too many businesses thumb their nose at one simple effort to curtail the fastest-spreading, too-often lethal virus that is out of control in our community and country.

It’s a general tenet of law that when the expression of personal freedoms interferes with the rights of others, personal freedoms become less important. Engaging in business necessarily involves others, such as the buying or selling of goods or services. Because of this reliance on other people, products and services, our Constitution allows the government to impose regulations on business.

Coronavirus illnesses, hospitalizations and deaths are at an all-time high. The country is averaging more than 1,200 deaths a day — the equivalent of another 9/11 tragedy every three days. Yet that statistic isn’t enough to get people to wear a mask.

As startling as the 1,200 coronavirus-related deaths a day in the U.S. statistic is, you can mask as you please in many public places in Wisconsin because the mask mandate isn’t enforced. Far too many managers don’t care if their business becomes the petri dish that kills grandma or the local cop.

Many businesses take pride in not masking. But when management fails to consider the people they serve, the invisible intersection of lives and the air we share, management is complicit in the ills and deaths that befall their patrons and community.

Earlier this year, Florence County Sheriff Dan Miller publicly announced that he didn’t care if anyone — which includes local businesses that invite the elderly in to eat, drink, play slot machines — followed the state mask mandate. His apathy set the standard for local businesses that the simple act of hygiene can be ignored in his jurisdiction. Apparently many Wisconsin sheriffs take a similar stance.

Local businesses who’ve been informed, warned, yet ignore responsibilities should begin receiving daily fines for intentional public health risks which they exacerbate by not enforcing proper mask wearing. These businesses remember what the “shut down” of the spring felt like, so it seems they would wholeheartedly embrace the much less restrictive alternative of mask wearing. Ignoring the opportunity to protect the public, they’ve instead pushed us toward another shutdown.

Until the coronavirus is under control and nurses, hospital and nursing home staff, child care workers, teachers, police and doctors are not put in the position of choosing to go to work, risking serious illness or death to themselves or family members, or staying home and losing their jobs, business owners and community leaders have a responsibility to set a standard that encourages safe practices.

Setting this standard — wearing a mask or shield during a pandemic, requiring employees to mask, using your leadership position to influence others — is a matter of common sense.

I call protecting my fellow citizens patriotism.

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