Commentary: Failure to wear a mask is indecent exposure

By Mark Roye
For The Cordova Times

With seining winding down and boats coming home, with gillnetters returning to town for Silvers, not to mention recent upticks in community cases, over this next month Cordova needs to recommit to wearing masks now more than ever.

Mask use has improved in Cordova. Up-town and in most business establishments masks are the norm, though still not universal. All too often some seem to think they are beard nets, rather than face coverings. But in the harbor, with people passing on narrow docks, on the work decks of boats, even in the restrooms, the wearing of masks remains minimal. When seiners get back to town, ready to blow off steam with social drinking, caution and our community’s progress in managing this pandemic may be jeopardized.

Think about this.

A just-published American Association of Medical Colleges study now shows that wearing a mask protects even the wearer much more than we’d previously thought. By reducing the quantity of viral particles breathed in, the so-called “viral load,” the wearer in effect gets a “lower dose.” This can mean that while the wearer of the mask may still become infected, he may become much less ill, or even be asymptomatic.

So now we know the mask protects us as well as others.

The notion that “personal freedom” precludes society from requiring that we cover our faces in the time of a deadly pathogen that threatens our economic well-being, our health, indeed the very fabric of our society, is clearly illogical. Society has long insisted that we wear pants in public. Failure to do so is criminalized as “indecent exposure.” Exposing others to a potentially deadly disease carried by our own exhalations is an exposure immeasurably more indecent. Nakedness may offend the sensibilities of some, but our own breathing, unimpeded, endangers lives, and threatens the economic well-being of the community.

Indeed, we have learned that this virus responds to our public policy as well as our personal decisions. Keep your pants on. Wear a mask to protect yourself, others and our economy.

And may the Silvers be with us.

Mark Roye is a Cordova-based retired fisherman who also served as the supervising attorney for the Bethel Regional Office of Alaska Legal Services.