On May 1, 16 active cases of COVID-19 were reported in Cochise County. On June 24, 256 active cases of COVID-19 were reported in Cochise County. That’s an increase of 240 cases in just a month and a half!

The county hot spot of Douglas reported 103 cases on June 14th ; ten days later on June 24th Douglas reported 228 cases — an increase of 125 in only 10 days !

And on a statewide basis, Arizona has passed 60,000 reported cases.

With these numbers, it appears we are climbing, not leveling, and projections indicate we will continue to increase for a while longer.

Did Governor Ducey remove COVID-19 restrictions too soon, and does he need to implement some protocols to mitigate the increasing numbers of cases? A nurse from Northwest Hospital in Tucson posted a somber message on Facebook: “We opened up way too early, and we are going to pay a heavy price for it. MASK UP!”

Across the state, various counties or communities have enacted requirements that require the wearing of face masks in public. It’s unfortunate that wearing face masks was not made a state requirement rather than “kicking the can down the road.” Because it wasn’t, we now have over 20 different mask ordinances across the state.

Masking up is a rationale, reasonable requirement and is one of the Centers for Disease Control guidelines to control this deadly virus.

There are three basic reasons why masking is so important. First of all, masks of any type act as a physical barrier and block large droplets from coughs and sneezes. It’s been estimated that these droplets can travel up to 20 feet with a powerful sneeze, so maintaining six feet of social distancing is not always enough

Second, masks protect you from others who might be sick. So, while masks prevent you from spreading the virus, they also keep you from “catching” the virus.

Third, masks serve as a reminder not to touch your face.

And if these aren’t an endorsement for wearing face masks, then watch the video shots of hospital workers in COVID-19 environments — let me know if you see anyone NOT wearing a mask!

Wearing a face mask is a common courtesy and a show of concern for your neighbors. Masking up will protect individual employees who have remained on the job, providing us with essential services during this pandemic.

These employees have put themselves in harm’s way, and they should not have to put themselves at risk for our benefit any more than is necessary.

Now, with an apparent need to stem the spread of COVID-19, you would think no one would be opposed to the requirement that masks be worn in public.

Unfortunately, that hypothesis is wrong.

There are those opponents who feel that people don’t like to be told what to do, so we shouldn’t mandate face masks, since some people may not like it.

There are many, many situations in which the government tells us what to do — wearing seat belts and helmets, stopping at a stop sign, paying taxes — and on and on.

Another illogical reason being used to oppose mandatory wearing of face masks is the argument that our COVID-19 numbers in Sierra Vista are low…so we’re OK.

As of June 24, there were 61 confirmed cases in Sierra Vista’s zip code 85635, and in zip code 85650, there were 23 — an increase of 170% since June 14.

But there is a flaw in the argument that masks aren’t needed because Sierra Vista has a low number of reported COVID-19 cases. Masking is a preventative action, not a treatment protocol.

Yes, Sierra Vista has low numbers, and masking will help us keep it that way!

Since there is not a statewide order mandating wearing of face masks in public, our county Board of Supervisors needs to enact a county ordinance requiring masks in public. The Sierra Vista City Council, along with other Cochise County communities who have not yet done so, should follow suit.

We cannot take a casual approach. COVID 19 is dangerous — Mask Up, Cochise County!

LANNY A. KOPE, EdD has been a hospital trustee for over forty years, serving on urban and rural hospital boards. He is the past Board Chair of Sierra Vista Regional Health Center and has had a national responsibility as Chair of the American Hospital Association’s Committee on Governance. Kope is also a University of Phoenix faculty member in Healthcare.

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