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Dennis Wyatt 

My nephew Garrison looked at me as if I had gone mad.

I had dropped an unwrapped granola bar on the dusty “desert pavement” while we were midway on a six-mile cross country trek to the Panamint Sand Dunes in Death Valley National Park.

I picked the granola bar up, brushed it off and started raising it to my mouth.

“You’re not going to eat that, are you?” he asked as incredulously as any 15-year-old could.

My somewhat flippant response was “you don’t see a 7-Eleven anywhere nearby, do you?”

I realize there are germs everywhere. If you follow the science literally the second you sanitize a surface all sorts of microscopic stuff starts making contact.

The same science has demonstrated many of us can build immunity or strengthen our defenses to viruses and other illnesses by being exposed to them. It’s the basic principle behind vaccines that help your body build up its defenses by fighting off less potent exposure.

Some of us have better DNA and others sharpen their body’s ability to ward off attacks via a healthy diet and exercise.

That said nothing is constant and nothing is infallible.

This cues up the never-ending debate about wearing masks as a safeguard against COVID-19.

The mask debate has gone from “why isn’t everybody forced to wear them” to “how dare people keep wearing masks.”

It’s ludicrous due to the fact some of the media pundits who were trying to hammer people into submission via government edicts that in retrospect were justified for the most part among those now bashing those wearing masks.

One political commentator has gone as far as saying people who are fully vaccinated but still wear masks do so to make the current administration look bad because people wearing them are showing they have no faith in those now occupying the White House.

It would be a laughable observation if it weren’t so tragic in how the argument demeans people to the point you are trashing their individual judgment on what works best or is most comfortable for them while they keep the community as a whole in mind. And while they might not be 100 percent right in their assertions, it is based on how they view the science, weigh their odds, and are personally comfortable with their decisions.

If masks are not mandated, do we really want a society that tries to shame someone who opts to wear them?

I am not prone to illnesses. I rarely get sick per se. I do have times when I might get a little sluggish for seemingly no reason at all. I assume that is the result of my body responding and delivering quick knockout punches to whatever is trying to ail me.

Yet I don’t think I’m bullet proof. None of us are. I take precautions that make sense for me — and others around me.

Earlier on in the pandemic I operated from an assumption my risks were relatively low. I wasn’t crazy about wearing a mask but I wore one.

When I turned 65 in the middle of the pandemic and was eligible to join those that were among the few allowed at the time to get vaccinated.

I opted to wait until those younger than 65 were allowed to get vaccinated and the mad scramble slowed down. It was fairly clear to me a lot of people had higher apprehension levels based on personal issues that made their need to be vaccinated greater.

That said I’m now fully vaccinated.

This week a surge in the Delta variant has prompted the Los Angeles County Health Department to recommend the wearing of masks indoors by everyone, vaccinated or not.

It should be noted the Delta variant has been getting a small and apparently growing number of fully vaccinated people sick. It is the unvaccinated, however, who are by far the most at risk from the Delta variant.

There are those that argue those who are unvaccinated — for whatever reason — should be the ones who have to wear masks and not them.

At the same time there are trends that underscore many of the COVID protocols that were put in place have had other positive health impacts.

Flu, as an example virtually vanished. In a typical winter the flu puts nearly 60,000 children under the age of 5 in the hospital. This past winter the numbers plunged below a hundred.

Colds also disappeared for the most part.

A lot of businesses as well as government facilities going forward intend to keep COVID related protocols in place long after the pandemic fades.

The changes run the gamut from keeping portable air scrubbers in classrooms and restaurants retaining QR menus to stepped-up sanitization procedures.

The schools, as an example, see many of the protocols going forward as a way to reduce the spread of flu and colds being easily spread. It means there will be fewer students absent. That in turn should have a positive impact on student learning.

Businesses also see fewer workers getting ill meaning increased productivity.

In short, people have learned there are positive benefits of social distancing protocols that go beyond combatting COVID.

The wearing of masks is one of those positives.

It is clear based on how many dense urban Asian cities prior to the pandemic issued mask mandates to reduce the spread of flu plus the severe drop of influenza cases during the pandemic that things such as masks do have a degree of effectiveness.

Masks are still required in California for everyone in health care facilities, indoor at K-12 schools, childcare and other youth settings like the Boys & Girls Club.

As for every place else, if they require a mask in order to enter it is a reasonable requirement.

And if a store doesn’t require a face mask and someone choses to wear one, what is the harm?

Many who are vaccinated may not like the idea of a variant hot spot such as Los Angeles County possibly making a recommendation that everyone regardless of vaccination status return to mandatory mask wearing.

We are still in a public health emergency. Besides, such a narrow mandate would be far better than retreating to full-scale lockdowns and putting in place economic stifling social distancing rules.