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Monday, June 21, 2021

Time to throw away your mask? Not yet

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As a surviving newspaperman man who reports and works as a photojournalist for a media chain that owns many daily newspapers in Virginia, I found myself the only one wearing a mask while photographing a high school softball game a couple of days ago.

The Old Dominion’s governor, Ralph Northam, following the recommendations of the national Centers for Disease Control (CDC), relaxed rules last week on mask-wearing to the point where few, if any, cover their faces out in public these days.

As one with both of the necessary vaccinations, I suppose I could ease off wearing that pesky piece of cloth, but my doctor suggests otherwise in places like sporting events, courtrooms, and other places where my profession takes me each day.

One of my daily news chores is gathering statistics on new COVID-19 cases in Virginia and at selected localities in the Southwestern portion of the Commonwealth. Numbers for both are down, lower than they were just two weeks ago, but we still have hundreds of new cases throughout the Commonwealth and even in the county of about 15,000 residents where we live.

Sunday’s daily report by the Virginia Department of Health reported 236 cases, bringing the statewide total to 673,029 but only 11 new hospitalization and 9 deaths.

Our county reported no new cases over the last three days, a drop from the 1-5 new cases daily for the two weeks before, and 873 total over the past 14 months. We lost 23 residents to date to COVID-19.

The wife has severe asthma and she will keep wearing the mask for the time being as an added precaution. She apparently contracted COVID-19 in late 2019, before we heard about it or became a pandemic, as doctors struggled to bring monstrously high blood pressure and low oxygen content under control. We later learned, when she was tested for the virus before surgery, that she also had the antibodies, which indicated infection by it sometime earlier.

It’s safe to say that we are cautious about making sure the disease does not get a second chance.

Reporting the news is a dangerous way to make a living in an America where the hard-right expresses hate for those who try to cover and dispense information. I’ve covered news in conflicts around the world but damn near died in 2012 in an accident on my way home from covering a high school football tournament game.

Life, be it ours or the ones of others, should be considered sacred. I’ve been in a coma twice in hospital stays where the doctors did not expect me to live. Surviving such things has left me cherishing life even more. Yes, I still ride motorcycles and put myself at risk in my profession but I try not to tempt fate by not following safety protocols.

So I will keep wearing a mask when covering court hearings, meetings of government agencies, and while photographing events like sports and musical events. Medical experts say relaxing rules on masks and social distancing should not be considered carte blanche permission to risk infection in everything we do.

Moderation is the key…or it should be.

Please let people like me write about and photograph your lives…not your deaths.

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