Kyle Troutman: The debate goes on

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Topics of social debate tend to come and go, but there has certainly not been a debate as fervent as the one ongoing since March — to mask or not to mask.

Heated comments on both sides of the debate have been front and center in the community, drawing countless comments on our social media pages, letters to the editor and calls to our office.

In the almost nine months of debate, the arguments have largely remained the same.

The side in favor stands by the research showing if everyone masks, transmission of COVID-19 will not be eliminated, but it will at least be lessened. The emotional argument typically follows, more or less, that wearing a face covering is a neighborly and respectful thing to do, just to take the precaution should you be an asymptomatic carrier that could possibly give the virus to someone whose immune system may not handle it as well.

The side against stands contends masking does nothing to prevent spread, and they tend to stand by individualism, using the “my body, my choice” phrase and saying mandates fly in the face of liberty and freedom guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.

The debate is tiring.

The Monett City Council passed a mask mandate in the city just over a week ago, drawing the ire of many of its residents. In fact, enough are in opposition that an anti-mask protest was held at City Hall during the Christmas Parade on Saturday.

Monett’s decision came well behind those in larger cities like Springfield and Joplin, and the convincing reason why commissioners passed the ordinance was because of local health leaders urging them to do so.

Darren Bass, Cox Monett president, cited an increase in local cases burdening his facility, so much so that the hospital has had to go into diversion twice. During those periods, if you have to go to the ER and need to be admitted to the hospital, there is simply not room for you. Bass said Cox Monett has had to send patients to hospitals as far away as Columbia and Arkansas to be treated.

Dr. Elizabeth Lucore, of Cox Monett Hospital, said masking protects others, as well as herself.

“[Masking] keeps my germs to myself,” she said. “When I am wearing a mask and cough or sneeze, the germs stop at point zero, right at the end of my face. If someone does not wear a mask and coughs or sneezes, their germs can travel about 10 feet and be spread wider than my arms can reach. The gaps in my mask do not protect me from that.”

Going up the Cox ladder, CoxHealth President and CEO Steve Edwards sings a similar song. He said there have been times even in Springfield facilities that there are no beds available for ER patients. Some have had to wait up to 24 hours to receive care.

Imagine breaking your leg, or even worse, your child breaking a leg, and having to sit in the ER or in your vehicle for an entire day before a doctor can see you. What type of long-term damage could be done during that time period?

Why is this the current situation? The answer is COVID-19. Hospitals are full, and cases and deaths are mounting. There is a possibility, for the first time I have ever heard, that if you are sick or injured there may be nowhere to go, no hospital to take you in.

Can universal masking remedy this state of affairs? There is a possibility it does not. But, there is also a possibility that it does.

To me, it seems like a simple ask. Might you endure a tinge of discomfort? Sure. Is it a hassle? Definitely.

Is it worth it if you prevent yourself or others from making the situation worse? I would think so.

The continued argument of, “If you’re afraid I might infect you, stay at home,” is so bizarrely unfriendly to me, especially in our area that prides itself on being such a tight-knit, we-have-each-others’-backs community.

That argument might just as easily be, “I am going to the grocery store fully nude, and if you don’t like it, don’t look.”

Where is our sense of community? Where is our compassion? Where is our ability to put ourselves aside for the betterment of others?

These are frustrating questions I ask myself daily, even more so when our reporting is branded “domestic terrorism” by our readers, simply for disseminating information from our local health leaders.

These are leaders that live in our communities, who we see at the grocery store or who have stood by our sides enjoying Christmas parades. They are not shadowy figures from far away lands playing Big Brother and employing the Thought Police — they are our neighbors urging us to take heed of the current situation and its potential consequences.

Unfortunately, as I pen this column, I know it will have little effect. However, I still challenge those against masking to consider the effect they may have, especially on local hospitals during a time of unprecedented capacity issues, and do anything possible to be part of the solution and not the problem.

And, for those who refuse, I truly hope you don’t end up stuck without care during an emergency that may alter your life forever.

Kyle Troutman has served as the editor of The Cassville Democrat since 2014. In 2017, he was named William E. James/Missouri Outstanding Young Journalist for daily newspapers. He may be reached at 417-847-2610 or editor@cassville-democrat.com.