On Aug. 22, Gov. Brian Kemp complained that the AJC “chided my decision to…urge—not mandate—Georgians to wear masks. This is still America, right?” Yes, it is, although it is hard to tell these days. A police officer shoots an unarmed Black man in the back seven times in front of his children, and another suffocates George Floyd while bystanders cry out to stop. The president outright lies every day.
America was built on the ideals of freedom. But our liberties should not come at the expense of others’. In 2005, the Georgia Smokefree Air Act was passed, prohibiting smoking indoors at most public places. Why? Because while an individual has the right to choose to smoke cigarettes, he does not have the right to endanger the health of those around him while enjoying this pastime.
When I was younger, I wore perfume. It felt good, but in medical school, I learned how people suffer from headaches, allergies and asthma exacerbations due to perfume. Do I have a right to wear perfume? Yes. Do I intend to hurt anyone while doing so? Of course not. But does my right to smell good supercede my neighbor’s right to breathe without getting sick? I don’t think so. So I stopped wearing perfume.
Research and experience have shown that mandating masks increases mask-wearing and decreases the spread of COVID-19. COVID-19 has already killed over 5,000 people in Georgia. In Athens, Atlanta, Savannah and other cities, local leaders realize that mask mandates save lives. It’s time Kemp did, too. Even if you don’t care about other people, mask-wearing will help us reopen the economy, save jobs and lives, and prevent people from being evicted from their homes.
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