Masks important for community health and continued positive economic momentum

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine scheduled an evening briefing Wednesday to emphasize the importance of wearing masks not only to promote physical health of individuals but also to support economic health across the state.

DeWine urged all Ohioans to wear masks when they go out in public to avoid another shutdown of businesses.

“If we do not take immediate action to slow this virus down, the tragedy that we see playing out on our television screens every day in Florida, Texas, Arizona and California may well be our reality in just a matter of weeks,” says DeWine, later adding, “We must keep the virus in check so that we can rebuild consumer confidence and keep the positive economic momentum going.”

Rob Alexander, executive director of the Small Business Development Center of Springfield, couldn’t agree more. He encourages people to wear masks to help support and protect the businesses they want to see thrive through the pandemic.

“I can’t tell you how stressful and emotionally taxing the shutdown was for a huge number of small business owners who could only watch helplessly as the company they worked so hard to build was taken away from them through no fault of their own,” he says. “When people refuse to wear masks or practice social distancing, they need to realize that they are inching us that much closer to having to shut down these businesses yet again, and frankly need to reevaluate whether being ‘right’ is worth the cost.”

The governor praised Ohioans for the sacrifices they made earlier in the year to “flatten the curve.” But, he says with recent spikes in COVID-19 cases and hotspots across the state, including Dayton, that it’s time for people across Ohio to once again take action.

“Ohioans have always been a people who have been willing to sacrifice today for a better tomorrow,” he says. “Tonight, I’m asking each of you to take action now. To sacrifice now so that our kids can be in school this fall. So they can at least have a chance to play sports. So businesses can stay open. So Ohioans at least have a chance to earn a paycheck and support their families.”

Emma Smales, lead public information officer for the Clark County Combined Health District, says that there is still misinformation circulating about the importance of wearing masks.

“This is a new virus – we’re learning about it constantly. Back in February when we weren’t telling people to wear masks, that’s because we didn’t know about asymptomatic spread at that point,” she says. “We were telling people, ‘If you’re sick stay home,’ and that should have protected people, because if you’re sick and stay home you’re not infecting other people. But what we didn’t know was that a large amount of people are asymptomatic, and asymptomatic people can infect other people.

“I think sometimes people get wrapped up in the idea of ‘You said we didn’t have to wear facemasks and now we do?’ but this is an evolving situation. As we learn more about the virus and learn more about how it spreads, the recommendations are going to change based on that information.”

Like the governor, Smales emphasizes the importance of protecting follow community members – especially those who are immunocompromised or at higher risk of catching COVID-19 because of other underlying health conditions.

She also explains that there is no evidence that facemasks restrict oxygen levels, giving the example of the variety of professions that have required employees to wear facemasks all day, long before the pandemic began.

Though facemasks can feel a little uncomfortable, Smales says so can seatbelts sometimes, and so can exercise, “but you do it anyway because you know it’s good for you. So, we get there’s an uncomfortable factor to it, but it’s for the greater good.

“You really have to think about the fact that by exercising your choice to not wear a mask, you’re putting others at risk, and obviously, we hope as a health department and as a society, that we would all want to protect each other and take care of each other.”

During the briefing, DeWine also charged Ohioans to do the right thing by asking themselves: “What’s better? Knowing that you did all you could to keep your family and your neighborhood safe and our economy open? Or taking risks that lead to illness, deaths and another economic shutdown?”

For Alexander the answer is clean cut.

“If wearing a mask for another month or so means businesses can remain open and schools can start in the fall, this should be an easy decision no matter what you believe,” he says.

Read more articles by Natalie Driscoll.

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