Toomey at Chamber

U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey arrives wearing a mask July 7, 2020, to the Lancaster Chamber in Lancaster city, where the Pennsylvania Republican held a discussion with local leaders.

THE ISSUE

More than 156,000 Americans have died of COVID-19; more than 4.7 million Americans have been infected with the disease, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center on Tuesday. And as LNP | LancasterOnline reported Tuesday, “An uptick in the rate of positive coronavirus tests and new cases in the past week is landing Lancaster County back among the current state leaders in both categories. Lancaster’s rate of new cases to new tests was 8.1% for July 28 through Aug. 3, according to an LNP | LancasterOnline analysis of the state Department of Health’s daily data. That was up from 5.7% in the previous seven days and ranked us sixth among the 67 counties in Pennsylvania.”

You could be forgiven if you are confused about where President Donald Trump stands on the need to wear masks to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus.

One day he calls wearing a mask a “patriotic” act; another day, he appears before a crowd without wearing one; and another day, his campaign sends out an email in which he says, of masks, “I don’t love wearing them either,” but they “can possibly help us get back to our American way of life.”

By contrast, U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey has been consistent in his efforts to encourage mask-wearing. And the Pennsylvania Republican began encouraging mask-wearing months before it became mandatory in public spaces in this state.

In a video Toomey posted to Twitter on March 28, he promoted #Masks4All, a movement launched by researchers and scientists.

While being careful in that video to note that medical masks should be reserved for health care professionals, Toomey called on Pennsylvanians to wear masks or other face coverings outside their homes to reduce the transmission of the novel coronavirus through respiratory droplets.

According to Politico, Toomey and Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado were urging the president and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in early spring to promote mask-wearing.

And last week, Toomey and Bennet introduced a bipartisan resolution to highlight the scientific evidence that shows that widespread mask-wearing can help combat the spread of COVID-19.

“Wearing a mask should not be controversial. Study after study affirms that wearing a mask reduces the spread of coronavirus,” Toomey said in a news release. “As our economy continues to reopen and until a vaccine is available, wearing a face mask when you venture out is the most practical and cost-effective manner in which we, as Americans, can do our part to protect one another. Please, for the benefit of your neighbors, friends, and those who live in your community, wear a mask.”

Bennet said, “The science is clear and consistent — when we wear a mask, we significantly limit transmission of the virus.”

Their resolution cites a study published in July by the CDC, which found that 139 clients were seen by two hair stylists with COVID-19 — but because both the stylists and the clients were wearing masks, none of the clients became infected.

It also cites a study in The BMJ, formerly the British Medical Journal, which found that mask-wearing by infected individuals and the contacts of those individuals was 79% effective in reducing COVID-19 transmission.

And it cites this fact from a Yale University study: Each additional cloth mask worn by members of the public has an estimated economic benefit of between $3,000 and $6,000 “due to the ability of masks to slow COVID-19 transmission and, as a result, to decrease mortality relating to the virus that causes COVID-19.”

That Yale study emphasized that “everyone” should wear “cloth masks in public at all times, not just those with symptoms.”

And it said “political officials can and should lead by ... wearing cloth masks in public at all times” and by emphasizing that mask-wearing “is a complement to other social distancing measures, not a substitute.”

We continue to be mystified by the politicization of mask-wearing, and by the videos shared on social media of Americans defying mask mandates and common sense by declaring, in public spaces, their freedom to go maskless in a pandemic that has killed more than 156,000 of their fellow citizens.

The simple act of donning a cloth mask will increase our chances of returning to some semblance of normalcy sooner rather than later. Why would anyone resist such a low-cost, effective measure?

The president was correct when he said wearing a mask is an act of patriotism. It protects the lives of Americans. It saves us money in health care costs. It helps to reduce the spread of a virus that has hit this nation devastatingly hard.

We’d ask mask-resistant readers to consider these words from Pennsylvania’s conservative U.S. senator: “It’s kind of similar to the way I think about speed limits,” Toomey told a reporter for the Free Press-Courier in Tioga County last month. “I drive my car. And the speed limit infringes on my freedom to drive it faster. But that’s a reasonable thing because the person who gets hurt may not just be me if I drive my car too fast. Similarly ... by people wearing a mask, we’re protecting other people from the risk that they could unknowingly have the virus and could be spreading it to other people.”

Toomey is right. Wearing a mask curtails just one freedom — and that’s the freedom the highly infectious novel coronavirus has to wreak havoc with our health. Please fight it by masking up.