To the editor:

The last month or so here in northeastern Massachusetts has been foul, weather-wise. I’ve gone for a walk nearly every single day.

I prefer the days that are cool, gray and drizzly. Why? I meet fewer people. The people I meet on my walks go out in the street to avoid me. Or I go out into or cross the street to avoid them. Nobody is the least bit offended; we all know we do this to avoid transmitting the coronavirus. We’re all good citizens and concerned neighbors. But masks? That’s something else.

It’s hard to find out the exact policy, but I believe that, as of last Wednesday, Massachusetts residents are supposed to wear masks when outdoors.

Many people I encounter have nothing like a mask anywhere about their persons. Others are wearing a mask down around their neck. If they encounter somebody, they try to whip it up in time. They often fail, so they just have to breathe in what he just breathed out. And vice versa.

There is considerable disagreement about how far you should remain from any other human being. Some authorities place that distance at 25 feet. Obviously, that distance varies with atmospheric conditions like humidity and wind. In any case, I would be much happier if everyone I encountered was wearing a mask.

There is a slight tendency for fewer younger people than older people to wear masks. I suppose it’s obvious: “I’m under 20; I’m much less likely than you, you old fart, to suffer horribly and die from coronavirus.”

Which brings me to my most important point: I wear a mask not to protect me, but to protect you. I have read and learned all I can about this, and as far as I can find out, my mask does little or nothing to protect me, but quite a bit to protect you. So in not masking, what you are saying is, “I don’t care in the least if you die horribly, as long as I don’t experience the slight discomfort of wearing a mask.” I know most of you don’t think you’re saying that, but you are.

If you should catch COVID-19, I’ll make a contribution or do whatever else I can to help you get better. Because that’s the way I think the world ought to work.

Mark Freeman


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