Watched a man in Roanoke throw a childish temper tantrum at a Walmart this week when the clerk told him he needed a mask. “I don’t need no f—ing mask,” he said. “Stop treating me like a child.” Then he proceeded to act like a spoiled brat while he stomped off, fired up his car and squealed his tires as he stormed off, almost hitting a pedestrian and then having to slam on his brakes to avoid hitting a car pulling out of its parking spot.
“Quite a spectacle,” I said to the clerk.
“We see a lot of this,” she said.
As the COVID-19 Coronavirus continues to rise again in Virginia, across the nation and around the world, anger replaced reason, particularly in the selfish United States, where too many people refuse to take simple steps like wearing a mask and maintaining social distancing.
“We are not defenseless against COVID-19,” says Center for Disease Control Director Dr. Robert R. Redfield in a CDC press release. “Cloth face coverings are one of the most powerful weapons we have to slow and stop the spread of the virus – particularly when used universally within a community setting. All Americans have a responsibility to protect themselves, their families, and their communities.”
Incredibly, I hear too many people here in Floyd County say obeying a state rule to wear a mask in businesses, restaurants, and other places are, somehow, a “violation of my Constitutional rights.”
Really? As a reporter, I have several verified Constitutional experts in my Rolodex and haven’t found one yet who says being told to wear a mask is violates anyone’s rights as defined by the American Constitution. Even better, the Virginia Constitution, which is older than the American one, does not either.
The American Constitution Center pointed to Polly J. Price, the Asa Griggs Candler Professor of Law at Emory University:
In a public health emergency, can state or local governments require the general public to wear face coverings? In 1905, the U.S. Supreme Court had called for just such deference in Jacobson v. Massachusetts. It cites a ruling by the Supreme Court of Arizona that says: “Necessity is the law of time and place, and the emergency calls into life the necessity … to exercise the power to protect the public health.” In Jacobson v. Massachusetts, the U.S. Court ruled: “Upon the principle of self-defense, of paramount necessity, a community has the right to protect itself against an epidemic of disease which threatens the safety of its members.”–Constitutional expert Polly J. Price
Law requires all of us to wear seat belts when driving a car or truck. As a motorcyclist, I am required to wear a helmet when on the road. For the record, I also wear one in states where helmets are not required. A helmet on my head and leathers on my body saved my life in a serious motorcycle crash in 2012.
More than 30 states, including Virginia, now require masks on residents when out in public. Virginia. Yet too many businesses in and around Floyd County ignore enforcement of the law.
Some business chains have stepped up enforcement, including CVS, which has a store in Floyd. Chains like Walmart, Kroger, Best Buy, and others now enforce mask rules throughout the country, even in states where they are not required.
Food Lion in Floyd has a sign on the door notifying customers that Virginia law requires those entering the store must wear a mask. The law does provide an exemption for those with medical conditions that might prevent using one but I have yet to see anyone entering bare-faced stopped and asked if they have a medical reason to break the law.
I heard a clerk Dollar General complain about having to wear a mask behind the counter. “Our head office tells us we have to but I don’t have to like it,” she said. At the time, her mask was hanging on one ear and not covering her face as she served a customer.
We spend at least two days a week in Christiansburg for wife Amy’s physical therapy on recovery from back surgery in March. She has asthma but still wears a mask. I cover Floyd County Circuit Court each week, where masks and social distancing are required. Good. It means I’m not the only one wearing a mask.
Like Amy, I have a respiratory condition (COPD) that could let us claim that we can’t wear masks. But we do and I had to laugh at Walmart last week when a young woman tried to claim a mask exemption by saying she was deaf.
The CDC director told reporters last week that if everyone in the country started wearing masks, the pandemic could be under control in six-to-eight weeks, but by selfishly not wearing masks by too many continue to fuel dangerous increases in infections, hospitalizations, and death.
Having to be in Christiansburg at least twice weekly allows us to get groceries and other items in stores that enforce mask rules. We prefer to shop local but with our age and respiratory conditions, we can’t risk getting infected with a virus that kills people like us.
I had work to do in Roanoke last Wednesday and it gave me a chance to pick up some items at places like Kroger and Walmart, where wearing masks are both safe and lawful.
Like many Floyd County residents, we prefer to shop locally whenever we can but safety must overrule social pride. Others we talk to agree.
Which raises the question: When this pandemic is finally is over, we will return to the businesses where we and others feel their safety and ours were not that important in dangerous situations like the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic?
We shall see.