A few weeks ago, I went to a store for the first time since the first case of COVID-19 was announced in Juneau. I am one of the “vulnerable” in that I am over 65 with underlying health conditions. There were items I needed to pick out on my own at Fred’s, and looking at the case numbers I thought I could take a chance.
I want to thank all of the people in the store that were wearing facemasks. I totally get why you wouldn’t want to. I found mine hard to breathe through and claustrophobic. Yet, I understood, as did my fellow mask wearers, that I wasn’t wearing it to protect myself. I was wearing it to protect everyone else. Even if it were possible to keep 6 feet apart in the food aisles, which it is not, studies have shown that a cough or a sneeze can spread droplets further than that and that droplets can remain in the air for minutes. No one is sure exactly how far the COVID-19 virus spreads or how long it remains in the air, but I’d rather not take any chances on possibly giving it to someone else.
Of course, people look at the number of new cases in Juneau and say precautions are no longer necessary. I had a doctor tell me there was no more COVID-19 in Juneau. That was the same day that another guard at Lemon Creek tested positive. Also, unless I am mistaken, people are still flying into Juneau and as we “open up” that number will increase. I know for a fact that not everyone flying in and required to self-quarantine, is actually doing it. So again, I don’t want to take a chance on somehow contracting the virus from someone flying in, and then giving it to someone else. I know that everyone wearing a mask feels the same way.
Then, there are people who say that if I am more vulnerable, I should just stay isolated. How many of you would want to stay isolated indefinitely when you live alone? Plus, there are things that I can only do by going out. For instance, I recently made settlement on the sale of my condo. I looked at potential places online, but when it came down to buying something, I needed to see my short list of properties in person. It is easy to make places appear in perfect condition in photos. The reality is not, and was not, always the same. Again, both my real estate agent and I wore masks and gloves while viewing the properties. Neither of us wanted to take the chance of giving the virus to others either living in or viewing the properties.
So, what is the point I am trying to make? Well, I wanted to thank those who were wearing masks in Fred’s because they cared enough to protect me and everyone else. To be honest, I had expected everyone to be wearing a mask. That was sadly not the case. At least, half of the people were not. I would like to remind the people without masks that if you want to put your own life in danger you are always free to do so, but please don’t put my life at risk. How would you like it if someone you loved died from the Covid-19 because someone who had the virus but didn’t know it, decided they didn’t want to be bothered wearing a mask? Somehow, I don’t think you would like it one bit.
Meanwhile, since that day, I am back to leaving the house as little as possible. Based on the increasing number of cases in the state it is the smart thing to do, even if it is very lonely.
So please people, I would really appreciate it if you would wear a mask. This pandemic is not over, and I would like to live through it.
• Sherri Wes is a Juneau resident and senior trying to live through this pandemic while maintaining my sanity.