Those of us who live or work in McComb are two weeks into the city’s requirement to wear masks in public. It’s not something pleasant, but I’ve been a pretty good boy about it.
When the city board approved the ordinance, the first thing I noticed was that there was no penalty for a violation. It was tempting to whisper to everybody at the newspaper not to worry about masks, but I figured it wouldn’t look too good for a business that spends a good bit of time and effort reporting on people who break the law to ignore this one. So we all got on the train to Maskville.
The ordinance actually included an exemption that applied to me. People who have their own office don’t have to wear one at work.
It was the perfect out. But making everyone else wear a mask while I didn’t would inspire resentment among my co-workers. So most of the time at my desk I’m typing away in my Saints mask. It only comes off if I’m on the phone or having a snack, or after 5 p.m. when most other people have left.
Before this, I had only occasionally worn a mask in public, usually at my wife’s prodding. So the first day with the mask at work was noticeably uncomfortable. It has become a little less intrusive, but the prospect of wearing a mask for weeks or months remains decidedly unappealing.
My complaints about it are probably the same as yours. When I exhale, it traps a surprising amount of warm air in my mask. If I exhale upward, my glasses fog up for a few seconds. The straps can make one or both ears sore. And the mask keeps slipping off my nose.
That’s all pretty whiny compared to having the virus and being sick, or having to stay in quarantine for two weeks. By that measurement, the hometown newspaper has been fortunate.
So far, only one employee has tested positive for the virus. That was in late June. The only symptom he had was a low fever and he is now back at work in the mailroom, where circulars are inserted in the paper.
But he was the first, and if a manager wants to get the attention of his employees during a pandemic, take them aside in small groups and tell them that a co-worker has tested positive.
I thought there would be a lot more of a panicked reaction than there was. But most people seemed to realize that we had dodged this bullet for three months.
After that, several other workers in the mailroom got tested for the virus. All came back negative. There have been at least six people in other parts of the building who have been tested since then. Two who got tested during the past week are still waiting on results, but everyone else is fine.
For now, that is. More than 800 Pike County residents have tested positive since March. The rate of infection is increasing, but the good news is that the death rate has not increased as well.
The rising number of infections tells me to expect more positive test results among my employees during the coming weeks. I try not to think about it, but that includes me, too.
This virus thing can really work on your mind. On the morning when the mailroom worker called to tell me that he had tested positive, I started wondering if I was infected too, because he had been in my office the day he got tested.
For a few minutes, my brain said, oh no! I’ve got a slightly sore throat. I must be sick. Then sanity returned and I realized I usually sleep with my mouth open, which dries out my throat.
Which brings us back to masks. Wearing one at work and in public is an inconvenience. It is still decidedly unappealing. Unless things rapidly improve in McComb, we’ll be wearing the masks for at least six more weeks.
I remember before the virus got to America, seeing people in Asia on TV with masks, and it just looked so weird.
Well, it’s not weird now. But wearing a mask also is not a big deal. Advocates say masks are best suited for keeping someone who has the virus from spreading it. So I’m going to do my part and be a team player.
I would write more, but I am late for the Pike County supervisors’ “Welcome to August” pool party.
OK, just kidding, but that was too tempting to pass up. Hopefully the supervisors can take a joke. When we lose our sense of humor, that’s when we’ll really be in trouble.