Mask (copy)

Brandon Burns wears a face mask as he takes photos of murals on South Elm Street Tuesday. 

Mayor Nancy Vaughan would prefer to see less of us in the days to come.

In an emergency proclamation Monday, the mayor made it mandatory to wear a face covering in most public spaces in Greensboro.

“It think people should have expected it,” the mayor said of the order, which took effect at 5 p.m. Tuesday.

“As a council, we’ve been discussing it, and we’ve watched the numbers climb in the past week. They’re not going in the right direction.”

State health officials announced Tuesday that COVID-19-related hospitalizations had set a one-day record in North Carolina, at 915. Also as of Tuesday, 106 coronavirus-related deaths had occurred in Guilford County. Even so, the proclamation is more of an urgent request than an order.

“Strong encouragement,” the city attorney said.

Thus, police may remind you if you’re not complying, but they won’t be fining violators or locking them up. The point of the order is to help tame a vexing, resilient and potentially fatal disease for which a vaccine seems a year away, at best.

So please ... do as they ask. And, please don’t view it as a political statement. This has nothing to do with whom you plan to vote for this fall or whether you’re liberal or conservative. Nor is this about your “freedom” to risk your own health.

This is about whether you’re willing to risk making somebody else sick — someone who may be much more vulnerable to the virus than you.

The science is now clear: Researchers say face coverings provide some degree of protection for the wearer, but they are most effective in preventing you from spreading the disease to others. You infect someone else with the novel coronavirus by coughing, sneezing or simply talking. And even if you feel perfectly fine you may be a carrier.

“If you’re talking, when things are coming out of your mouth, they’re coming out fast,” Linsey Marr, a Virginia Tech scientist who studies how viruses spread through the air, told NPR. “They’re going to slam into the cloth mask. I think even a low-quality mask can block a lot of those droplets.”

Greensboro joins a growing list of cities in the state that now require face coverings, including Raleigh, Chapel Hill, Durham, Kinston and Knightdale. Meanwhile, the N.C. Chamber joined the N.C. Healthcare Association and the N.C. Medical Society last week in calling “on all North Carolinians to be united in voluntarily practicing CDC-recommended behaviors to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus, including wearing a face covering when in public or high-risk indoor group settings ... .”

Incidentally, the N.C. Chamber is hardly a bastion of liberalism. Yet it also recognizes that, in the long run, businesses will benefit from reasonable protocols that will help flatten the curve of COVID-19.

Certainly, there’s been some confusion. First we were told not to wear masks — that not only would they not keep us safe, but that buying them would deplete supplies for health care workers.

Now we know better. Face coverings work. They’re symbols of selflessness and personal responsibility, not fear or weakness.

So do the decent thing and cover up. Not because you have to, but because you want to.

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