If adulthood begins at age 18, then I have been an adult for more than half a century. and in those 50+ years, I have never seen an issue so demonstrative of the stupidity and selfishness that is so rampant in this country as the controversy regarding the simple safety precaution of wearing a mask in public during a pandemic. Before I discuss the business/economic perspective of this issue, let me address some of the reasons I’ve heard for not wearing masks.

  • They’re hot/uncomfortable and make it hard to breathe: Quit your whining. Doctors and nurses wear them for 12-hour shifts, or longer. The teens and seniors working at my local Publix wear them for their entire shifts. Man up; put on your big girl panties, and put up with it for the couple of hours that you’re out in public. It’s not that bad.
  • They make me look funny: Of course they do. So what. Use your mask to make a fashion statement or promote your favorite college football team. Promote your business by giving away masks with your logo. Be wild and crazy with your mask (I’m considering getting the gorilla design). Have fun with it.
  • Mask wearing means you’re living your life in fear: Does wearing a seatbelt or putting your infant in a carseat mean you’re living in fear? Would you tell a construction worker they’re living in fear by wearing a hard hat and steel-toed boots? Safety precautions have nothing to do with fear; they’re about mitigating risks. Any corporate safety director will tell you that risk mitigation is simply smart, not fearful.
  • Requiring me to wear a mask violates my constitutional freedoms: Probably the most ridiculous of all the reasons. To begin with, freedoms enshrined in the Constitution are not absolute nor without limits. Your freedoms end when they infringe on the freedom of others. For example, your freedom of speech ends when you slander someone. The Supreme Court has repeatedly affirmed the State’s right to constrain freedoms when public, and even personal, safety is involved. Your “freedom” to drink and drive has a very specific blood alcohol limit. You’re required to wear a seatbelt and can be fined if you don’t. Most restaurants won’t serve you if you don’t wear a shirt and shoes. If you have the “freedom” to not wear a mask in public, do I have the same freedom to not wear pants? Safety isn’t about freedom, and yours isn’t being violated by requiring you to wear a mask in public or in a place of business. It’s not a freedom issue, it’s about public safety.

Now to the business perspective. When the City of Montevallo recently issued an order mandating masks in public within the city limits, the proprietor or a local cake shop decried the order claiming it was “bad for her business.” You know what else is bad for business? Dead customers. The Bureau of Labor and Statistics pegs the 2019 consumer spending amount at more that $13 trillion. That works out to about $40,000 per person. Which means so far our economy has lost more than $5 billion in consumer spending. That’s a hit on the economy that’s not coming back. Once the funeral expenses are paid, those dead consumers aren’t spending any more.

and at the death rate as of the writing of this post, we’re losing more than $250,000 worth of consumption each day. With the current increases in cases and hospitalizations, the number could easily climb to twice that, or more. That’s money that would have been spent on groceries and gas. Prescriptions and clothing. Haircuts and nails. Restaurant meals and entertainment. and cakes. If you own a business you should be begging your local government to make wearing face masks in public mandatory. and even if they don’t, you should be requiring it of all your patrons and your staff. For everyone’s protection. Unless you like seeing your customers and prospects die off. 

Look around the world. Masks work. Asian and European countries have brought their virus-induced economic decline to near zero. Businesses are recovering. Some modicum of normal activity is returning in those countries where masks are mandated. Meanwhile, we’re going backwards. States and municipalities are having to re-implement closings and restrictions in the face of raging wildfires of infections. In some cases, the hard-won gains made earlier in the spring have now been lost, and we’re back to square one in this terrible battle. 

One final note, the real bottom line for all of us in the I/DD community is very simple. Statistics gathered on the disease so far show that people with developmental disabilities are four times as likely to contract COVID-19 as the general population. FOUR TIMES. and they are twice as likely to die from it. If you’re a self-advocate, a care giver, a family member, a service provider, or a friend, you should be wearing a mask any time you’re in public. It’s a sign that you care and that you’re strong enough to put up with the annoyances. 

Don’t complain. Just do it. They work. Rant over.