IDEAS: Masks offer freedom to us all

Note from Community Impact Editor Amelia Robinson: This opinion piece appeared in the Dayton Daily News’ Ideas and Voices section Sunday, July 12. Other pieces from the section are embedded below. Guest columnists were asked for their reflections on facial masks related to the coronavirus pandemic.

When Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced a mandatory mask order, I was surprised and thrilled.

My husband Ian Kaplan had been stuck inside for weeks. At the urging of his doctors, I’d been nearly as strict.

Ian, an organ transplant recipient and a diabetic, is among those considered at higher risk to become severely ill if infected with COVID-19.

When I did venture out, I did so in a mask.

I knew it wouldn’t protect me — science shows that the masks protect those around the wearer — but I didn’t give wearing one a second thought.

Ian is far from the only person with a compromised immune system or diabetes.

And he isn’t the only person who is frightened of being infected with something that, as with many illnesses that have a low death rate for much of the population, would almost definitely kill him.


I’m generally quite healthy and I am frightened of contracting it.

COVID-19 is new, complicated and unpredictable, with long-term effects that aren’t something I want anyone to experience.

The governor rescinded the order the following day, citing pressure from the public.


It felt very personal.

"People don't care about me," I thought. "They don't care about my husband. They don't care about each other."

I understand that on top of a stay-at-home order, anything more seems oppressive. People want to be free to do what they want — of course.

Maybe we all want to just forget it happened. It’s hard to forget when everyone’s wearing a mask.

Credit: Submitted

Credit: Submitted

It has been strange to read that people view masks as infringing on their personal freedoms when my immediate reaction was starkly opposite.

If people would wear masks, everyone would be free to carefully go about their lives.


It would give us all the freedom of knowing we were much less likely to transmit or contract COVID-19.

People commenting about freedom and railing against masks are often the same ones commenting on tragic events saying, "If I were there, I would have ____."

Many of us imagine ourselves as heroes who would absolutely do the right thing, the difficult thing, if it meant helping or even saving the life of someone else.

With COVID-19, I’ve been reading a lot of comments stating if they knew for certain that something would help, they would do it.


This is that moment and that thing.

COVID-19 is not a shooting or a tornado or anything quite so personally visceral.

Perhaps it doesn’t feel so dire. But, it will be, if we don’t mask up.

That’s all you have to do to be the hero.

Put on a mask, enjoy your freedom to move about knowing you won’t make others sick — and that those who would normally be stuck inside can enjoy those freedoms alongside you.


Brooke Medlin lives and works in Dayton. She currently helps run the Dayton COVID-19 Information group on Facebook.

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