Virginia Regulatory Town Hall
Department of Labor and Industry
Safety and Health Codes Board
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6/22/20  8:53 pm
Commenter: Kelly H., Masks for Essential Retail RVA

Masks are essential to prevent more deaths

Personal freedom to not wear a mask is irrelevant when as a country we are experiencing a greater loss of life from COVID-19 than that of World War I.  Life comes before liberty and the pursuit of happiness, especially when the liberty of so many Americans is being hindered by people who do not believe in statistics or facts.  I am afraid to leave my home.  I am afraid to send my stepson to daycare.  My stepson's mother (who works at a grocery store where most customers don't wear masks) has not seen her son for 3 months because her risk of infection is so high at her job.  OUR personal freedoms are being hindered by this mask mandate not being enforced in any fashion, because we cannot leave our homes for fear of coming into contact with a person with COVID-19.  There are many well-documented cases of folks who know they have the virus going out into public and not wearing masks because they refuse to believe the cold hard truth behind it all: this virus is real, this virus has killed 119,000 Americans, and masks are the single simplest solution to curbing this wave of death our country is currently experiencing.  Projections from Berkeley estimate that if 80% of Americans wore masks, infection (and death) rates would plummet.

In addition to my personal experiences, I am here to give voice to the hundreds of workers my group Masks for Essential Retail RVA has provided with free cloth masks.  As of today we have donated 3,839 masks to Virginians in an effort to keep them safe.  We do not charge for these masks and many of us have been pouring our hearts and souls into this effort for 40+ hours a week (some of us, myself included, doing this in addition to our regular jobs and homeschooling our children) simply because we know a single mask can save many lives.

To this day, I still receive messages from workers who are exposed to customers who don't wear masks.  In the beginning, the workers didn't have masks either.  Many workers had to fight for the most basic of protections.  Many big box chains lightly encourage their customers to wear masks, but do nothing to enforce their usage because, of course, at the end of the day, the CEOs have to make their money while their employees on the front lines are in danger.  I get messages from workers asking where to get COVID testing because a sick customer coughed on them, single mothers begging me for masks for their children because unmasked customers were breathing in their faces, some workers even contacting me for legal resources because they were fired from their job for contracting COVID-19 (undoubtedly from their high-exposure job), even though their employer never provided them with masks or even encouraged customers to wear them.

People's lives are on the line and a mask mandate without any sort of enforcement is useless.  Everyone seems to care a whole lot about their freedom not to wear a simple piece of fabric over their mouth, but NO ONE seems to care at ALL about the lives we're losing and are poised to continue losing if nothing is done to ensure public health and safety.

CommentID: 83511