With so much information available, from a wide variety of credible sources, about the severity and impact of the coronavirus pandemic and the need to follow certain critical guidelines, there are still those who still appear unable or unwilling to accept reality. And their denial manifests itself in many ways, whether it be refusing to wear a mask, ignoring social distancing guidelines, undermining the work of the CDC and/or launching attacks against those who are trying to protect themselves and others. Giving the deniers some benefit of the doubt, perhaps they are simply finding it difficult to cope. This is after all, an extremely challenging and taxing time, requiring a level of resiliency that not everyone possesses. And denial is a time-proven defense mechanism to work through tough times and even to justify unacceptable behavior. Yet denial requires a willful ignorance of the facts. This is why I found Dr. John Morton’s letter (published in last week’s Eagle) to be so intriguing.

It goes without question that everyone has the right to their own opinion, but in his letter, Morton misquoted and misinterpreted CDC guidance so drastically that it cannot simply go unchallenged. Moreover his claim that an “authoritative source” provided him with “a summary of conclusions” from something he calls “a large number of studies”, made me suspicious enough to find out if these studies actually exist, and if they do, how credible were they and what did they actually say. So I went to the CDC website (you can do this too – the website is www.cdc.gov), and searched for this critical new information that Morton had claimed to find. What I discovered was that with more than 50+ studies, reports, and press releases on the CDC website that refer to masks, I could not find a single one that came close to the claims that he was making. Here’s what the CDC is actually saying:

Masks are recommended as a simple barrier to help prevent respiratory droplets from traveling into the air and onto other people when the mask-wearing person coughs, sneezes, talks, or raises their voice. This is called source control.

COVID-19 spreads mainly among people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet), so the use of masks is particularly important in settings where social distancing is difficult to maintain.

All people 2 years of age and older wear a mask in public settings and when around people who don’t live in your household, especially when other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.

COVID-19 can be spread by people who do not have symptoms and do not know that they are infected. That’s why it’s important for everyone to wear masks in public settings and practice social distancing.

If you are sick with COVID-19 or think you might have COVID-19, do not visit public areas. Stay home except to get medical care.

The studies being cited in the CDC website all support these conclusions, and so wearing a mask in public and practicing social distancing seems pretty clear and practical to me….. Now if you want to say something like: “I don’t like wearing a mask…”, or “I am already socially distanced when I am riding my bike away from other people…”, or “I am so selfish that I am going to do what I want no matter how it impacts others around me…..”, then those are at least honest comments. But it’s really not ok to hide behind some vague reference to an unnamed report, that somebody else “summarized” what they thought was being said…... In this uniquely difficult time, we should expect – and we need -- more honesty, accountability, cooperation, and teamwork. Too many medical responders are out there on the front lines, risking their lives to treat the many victims of this historic and disastrous pandemic. I would hope that all of us would do all that we can to remember their sacrifices, keep the conversations facts-based and most importantly, think about others when we are deciding on our own personal behavior.

And for those who are finding great difficulty right now – I understand. But please know that while using denial as a coping mechanism in the short term might buy you time to adjust to a difficult situation, when it becomes a long-term crutch it can put other people in harm’s way, and this means everyone (including you) loses.

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