After nearly four months, the Tribune office will open to the public on July 6. And visitors to our office will be required to wear a face mask just as a new company policy requires workers here to mask up.

Face masks have become a touchy subject, and on social media, many memes pop up shaming those who don’t wear them. Maybe that’s because mask-wearers are committed to protecting others from COVID-19, and by that rationale, those without them demonstrate little concern about putting others at risk.

The Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization are now recommending we all wear them, however, particularly when indoors and when social distancing is impossible outdoors. Studies have shown when everyone wears them, the rate of coronavirus infection and death is reduced.

Back in March and April, I felt awkward wearing mask, mainly because I saw them on so few people, and I felt self-conscious. But as masks have become more available, thanks in large part to many volunteers who sewed them, they’ve become more prevalent and at least socially, more comfortable to wear. Still, one news report indicated only 40 percent of the population in the United States is doing so.

Now, I routinely mask-up when I’m shopping or around groups of people, particularly indoors. They’re not always comfortable; my glasses fog up and, yeah, it’s hot.

But a lot of clothing we wear can be uncomfortable – bras, many types of pants, ties and girdles, to name a few, and these serve no purpose other than to help us fit in with social norms.

A couple of times, I’ve forgotten my mask and gone shopping, then felt guilty as I noticed all of the clerks masked up, doing their best to earn some money while trying to stay healthy. Their lives are important; they keep our stores open and ensure our access to household necessities. The least I can do is wear a mask to protect them.

In New York City, that crowded metropolis where social distancing is often impossible, Mayor Bill De Blasio required facemasks. Initially a hotspot for the virus, the city is now in phase 2 of its reopening plan, and people are returning to work – in masks.

Here in Dane County, we are also in phase 2, but the COVID-19 infection numbers have risen to levels not seen since the end of May. Maybe we could have avoided this spike if we’d only worn masks.

The CDC does not recommend masks for the entire population, and notes that young children, those who have trouble breathing or cannot remove the mask without assistance should not wear them.

But for most of us, the CDC recommends their use, and the rationale seems perfectly reasonable.

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