Much has been made about wearing, or not wearing, a face mask when around other people as things open up during the latest stage of the grand corona-virus drama.
Rational people will make their decision on the basis of fact and science, one eyebrow cocked with the knowledge that the latest science is often outdated by next month.
So, what is the "latest science" we should be looking to?
Let's start a little farther back. Early in this drama, people started wearing masks to protect themselves from the virus. At first, public-health authorities encouraged this. Then, after some studies, they discovered that wearing a mask did little to protect the wearer.
At that point, the authorities spread the word that a mask, outside of a hospital setting, wasn't particularly helpful. Some doctors said because the masks might collect virus particles which then could spread to the wearer when handled, wearing a mask might be more dangerous than not wearing one.
As of April, however, "the latest studies" showed that wearing a mask could prevent a person infected with the virus from spreading it willy-nilly. (See the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, "Recommendation Regarding the Use of Cloth Face Coverings.")
The centers cite seven recent studies.
The experts then began recommending we wear face masks when out around other people, as we increasingly are. The most dangerous places seem to be big chain hardware, grocery and discount stores and uncontrolled crowds at recreational sites.
But let's make this clear. The mask isn't to protect you. It's to protect everyone else from you, should you chance to become infected.
Wearing a mask says to other shoppers, and especially to store employees, that you are thinking about their health. It says, "I care about you."
This is important for store employees, since as shoppers, we're seldom there for long and perhaps run little risk of being infected. Employees have to be there all day, wearing their masks. They stand a much better chance of getting sick.
Not wearing a mask says, simply, that you don't care. About the employees, other shoppers, anyone else.
If that's your political statement, so be it.
This newspaper is known as solidly Republican, conservatively leaning, but we're not antimask. Most of us are learning to wear one when in stores and offices, because we do care.
We commend it to everyone.
It's not about politics. It's not about not spreading this virus.
It's about caring about others, being polite.