We’ve said it before. Until effective treatments are widespread or a vaccine is developed for the coronavirus, it’s important to wear a mask anytime you cannot keep some distance from people you don’t live with. Among other reasons, that’s because masks are one of our best guards against another devastating economic shutdown.

First, we hope you are frequently washing your hands, following social distancing recommendations — staying at least six feet away from people outside your own household — and staying home if you feel sick. Masks are advised for anytime you can’t keep your distance. So far as we know, those are still the best ways to limit the spread of the coronavirus and COVID-19, the disease it causes.

For everyone’s sake, we’ve got to keep a lid on this disease.

Hospitalizations for COVID-19 have spiked in Texas this month and keep going up. Leaders are trying to steer the safest course possible between Scylla and Charybdis: Economic collapse on the one hand or severe, widespread sickness and death on the other. Either one could spell disaster for families already buffeted by business shutdowns, furloughs and job losses. We must do what we can to avoid both.

“In many parts of our state, COVID-19 is making a terrifyingly strong return,” Dr. Diana L. Fite, president of the Texas Medical Association, warned in a statement this week. “Hospitals are activating surge plans to make room for more seriously ill patients — whether with COVID-19, other diseases, or significant trauma.”

If the next few weeks aren’t handled well, “the consequences will be severe for us, our patients, and large swaths of the Texas health care system,” she added.

So what’s that mean for the general public? Wash your hands often, she said. Stay home if you can and practice social distancing.

“And for your sake, for your neighbors’ sake, for my sake, and for your grandma’s sake, wear a mask, Texas,” she pleaded.

Gov. Greg Abbott had a similar message this week, sounding newly urgent after a few weeks of optimism. Daily new cases, hospitalizations and the ratio of confirmed cases to tests have “pretty much” doubled, he said. And if they do so again over the next month, we will be up against “an urgent situation where tougher actions will be required.”

“I know that some people feel that wearing a mask is inconvenient or is like an infringement of freedom, but I also know that wearing a mask will help us to keep Texas open,” Abbott said.

While the governor hasn’t made it mandatory, he’s appealing to our sense of responsibility to our fellow Texans to cover our faces in public spaces where social distancing isn’t feasible.

So if you haven’t already, find or make a mask and wear it. It’s a small request that isn’t difficult for most people and doesn’t need to cost anything. But our commitment to this and other precautions could help us find the light at the end of this long, dark tunnel.

Weatherford Democrat

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