Wearing a mask keeps everyone safe

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Managing Editor Kim Harris

We’ve all seen the headlines, “Newsom recommends bars in Riverside County close amid spike in COVID-19 cases,” “501 new coronavirus cases reported in county, spike in ICU patients too,” and “Riverside County on state coronavirus watchlist amid increased infections.”

During the time period of June 22 through June 26, 1,843 new cases were reported countywide, a nearly 12% increase. Southwest Riverside County saw increases as well. In Temecula and San Jacinto, cases went up by just over 16%, Murrieta saw an increase of 13.5% and Lake Elsinore saw an increase of just over 10%. Hemet, Menifee, Wildomar, Canyon Lake and virtually all of the unincorporated areas saw an increase of 10% or more, too. As of that June 26 date, 438 people in the county succumbed to the illness.

With the increase in cases came more closures, the Riverside County Board of Supervisors announced it would hold its June 30 meeting virtually since “several employees who work at the County Administrative Center were confirmed to have coronavirus.” All board offices at the County Administration Center and the county executive office have temporarily closed. Local businesses began to close as employees were diagnosed with COVID-19, not because they had to, but because business owners felt it was the right thing to do.

The increase in cases is apparent, leading to a shortage of intensive care unit beds with 99% of ICU beds in Riverside County reported as occupied Monday morning.

There were just five empty ICU beds remaining in Riverside County as of Sunday, June 28, county representative Brooke Federico said in remarks reported in the Desert Sun. The number of occupied ICU beds represents a 19% increase over the past two weeks. Of the 380 ICU patients in Riverside County, 28% are confirmed COVID-19 patients, City News Service reported Monday, June 29.

Then Monday afternoon, the big news hit when Dr. Cameron Kaiser, public health officer of Riverside County, ordered all bars, which had just reopened June 12, to close in order to help slow the spread of coronavirus. The new closure order was effective Tuesday, June 30.

“People don’t social distance well after a couple drinks, and it’s one of the hardest environments to trace contacts in,” Kaiser said. “My hope is that this will be only temporary and further closures won’t be needed, but it all depends on what every one of us as a county do to slow more spread.”

No matter how it happened, it is time to face the facts, folks – Riverside County is seeing a spike in COVID-19 cases and we all need to do our part. So how do we contribute to the health of ourselves and others in southwest Riverside County? We socially distance, wash our hands frequently, stop touching our faces and wear our masks.

The World Health Organization, which had been opposed to the general public wearing masks, reversed that stance June 5.

“The announcement was long overdue, critics said, as masks are an easy and inexpensive preventive measure,” according to The New York Times article, “W.H.O. Finally Endorses Masks to Prevent Coronavirus Transmission.”

Even though California requires people to wear masks in most indoor settings and outdoors when distancing isn’t possible under a statewide order issued Thursday, June 18, I am still seeing plenty of people out there not wearing them, and heaven forbid a store doesn’t let someone in without a mask.

My 20-year-old daughter, who works at a local grocery store, was verbally attacked when she asked an unmasked customer to either put on a mask or leave the premises as directed by her store manager. She called me afterward, livid over the fact that someone would attack her in such a manner over something designed to keep that person safe.

It is mind-boggling to me why people wouldn’t want to wear a mask if it could potentially prevent them or someone they love from getting sick. Maybe I see it differently because I am immunocompromised, but the bottom line for me is we should show compassion toward others. If that means wearing a mask, then why not? What does it really hurt to put that piece of fabric across your face and go about your business?

I have been doing it for months, and it hasn’t killed me yet, and if you aren’t already, I encourage you to do the same.

Kim Harris can be reached by email at valleyeditor@reedermedia.com.