As Chris Wallace of FOX News said last week, “Wear the damn mask.” That simple step can help pull the country and particularly Malheur County out of the pandemic quicker. Many of us are following the Wallace maxim of public health. Still more need to.

In Oregon, Malheur County remains the hotspot when it comes to Covid. The county has a higher infection rate than any other county, and has had for weeks. The community has two unusual factors exacerbating the matter. The high number of infections at Snake River Correctional Facility counts against us. And the cross-border movement of people living in Idaho, where Covid mandates don’t exist, means we’re importing the virus every day.

But despite that, Malheur County is doing better. For last week, county health officials reported 67 new cases of Covid. That’s the lowest count since June and well below the peak of 132 new cases registered during a week in August. On average, just nine Malheur County residents per day were detected with Covid. At its worst, the pandemic was grabbing 19 people a day.

Does that mean we can relax? That we can hold birthday parties and go back to school? Not yet. As of Sunday, 24 people were hospitalized, meaning they were sick enough with Covid to need serious medical attention. That’s a high number for Malheur County. And 30 people have died.

Simple steps anyone can take stop the spread. Washing hands regularly. Keeping 6 feet apart from others when gathered for more than 15 minutes. And, above all, wear the mask.

The science is clear and the legitimate medical community is united behind the value of masks. Scientific research discovered after the pandemic hit the U.S. that people could spread the virus before they showed symptoms. And some infected with Covid never show symptoms.

That means someone infected moving around the community can also be unwittingly spreading the virus. Most people can and will recover from the disease, although the long-term health effects still aren’t clear. But some people can’t handle Covid – they get gravely ill and can die.

Wearing a mask stops the virus-carrying droplets from leaving your face. That’s the job of the mask – to capture those infected droplets before someone else can inhale them.

Study after study now shows that wearing masks slows the spread. One scientific project calculated that wearing masks would do more to contain the virus than a lockdown.

Imagine that. Wearing an inexpensive mask is more potent at stopping the virus than closing restaurants and hair salons and public offices.

Still, in Malheur County, too many people are moving around bare-faced. No doubt, they feel fine. What’s to worry? Some businesses have been admirably strict in following the rule: No mask, no service. Others still shrug and let potential virus spreaders roam their aisles. 

Those without a mask are helping keep Malheur County at the head of the class for the community in Oregon with the worst infection rate. But it doesn’t have to be, and the declining case numbers suggest we’re doing better as one in combating the virus. Now, let’s unite to put a strong drive together to put the pandemic on the run for good. Wear the damn mask and possibly save a life. – LZ