Letter, Opinion

It’s time for mandatory masks

Dear Editor,

Editor’s note: The following is a letter Sen. Dick McCormack sent to Gov.Phil Scott, Dr. Mark Levine, Lt. Governor Zuckerman, and the Senate on July 2.

I think the time has come to require that all people wear face masks in public and keep six feet of separation. I applaud the administration’s frequent admonitions to the public to practice safer public hygiene, and I agree that, all else being equal, friendly persuasion is better than a legal mandate. As Freshman Senator Scott’s first committee chair 20 years ago, I’ve long respected and appreciated the governor’s calm, moderate bridge building approach to governing. It has served us well throughout this Covid tsunami. But sometimes the folks on the other side of a divide have no interest in bridge building. Sadly, it is impossible to go into public in our state without being dangerously assaulted by the presence of unmasked people who are unwilling to keep six feet away. We need to apply state authority to protect innocent people from this assault.

I observe two kinds of unmasked people and boundary violators: the kind of mindless folks who litter and talk out loud at classical music concerts, and the ideologues who think they have a God-given constitutional right to spread a deadly virus. I don’t imagine either will prove persuadable.

I suggest an executive order requiring masks, with a heavy fine for violation. I also suggest that all police be provided a supply of masks to be given to unmasked folks. If the viral vector puts the mask on, the police officer should thank them and not write a ticket. Any resistance or repeat offense should result in a ticket. This is done in Massachusetts and my understanding is that it’s effective.

I also suggest that six feet of separation be made mandatory. This is not a matter of the claimed rights of some folks to decide for themselves. It’s a matter of everyone else’s right to have boundaries, and to have those boundaries respected. Besides police enforcement of distancing, we should also give each person a legal right to demand six feet of separation. Refusal to comply should be treated as assault.

I urge the governor to do as much of this as his executive order authority allows. The Legislature should do the rest in August. If the freedom to swing one’s fist ends at another person’s nose, there surely is no right to put a deadly virus into someone else’s lungs.

Thanks for considering.

Sen. Dick McCormack, Bethel

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