Guest opinion: Face masks save lives, jobs

  • Wednesday, July 29, 2020 1:30am
  • Opinion

And all across the state, Washington state employers are leading by example in the fight to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

From Seattle to our small towns, workers are masking up before starting their shifts on manufacturing floors, in restaurant kitchens, construction sites and hardware stores. This simple tool is even more powerful when customers do their part as well, and wear a mask before coming inside.

Culturally, we’re adjusting and building new habits. Face masks, gloves and hand sanitizer have joined wallets, phones and car keys among the necessary items to have before leaving our homes. Some masks are plain, and some have the logos of our favorite sports teams or other patterns. Either way, they’ve become part of our daily lives.

Initially, face masks were encouraged primarily as a way to protect those around us. But now researchers from around the world are looking into the possibility they also provide protection for the person wearing the mask. Recent studies indicate people are 65% less likely to be infected if they wear a mask.

And Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said he believes the pandemic could be brought under control in four to eight weeks if “we could get everybody to wear a mask right now.”

Our state needs this team effort to keep people from getting sick, and help our economy stay open and avoid more closures. Masks help companies open up and stay open. The economy has a great degree of fragility, and we need to do everything possible to avoid going backward. Wearing a mask can not only help keep you and neighbors healthy, but they can also help you and your neighbor collect a paycheck, not an unemployment check.

Washington state’s economy shut down in March. Lives were saved as we stopped the spread of the coronavirus. But our economy took a major hit when customers stayed home and demand dropped. Many businesses are still recovering, and some are already gone forever from this once in a lifetime event.

Since then, our state has reopened slowly and carefully. Employers have made major investments in personal protective equipment, safety training, and by rearranging store layouts and factory floors. This work is all the more remarkable considering that hundreds of Washington manufacturers have shifted their operations to make this personal protective equipment to both save jobs and help our state reopen safely.

Now, COVID-19 cases are trending upward in Washington and around the country. But we’ve come too far to turn back. This point is being driven home by the Stay Safe Washington Coalition, which has launched a new public awareness campaign to highlight the benefits of using a mask. The message is simple: If we all wear a mask in public places, we can stay safe and stay open.

This broad coalition represents contractors, ethnic businesses, bankers, grocers, Realtors, the retail, hospitality and food industries, AWB and more. We’re proud to be part of this team effort to protect public health and help keep our struggling economy open.

And we’re asking all Washingtonians to continue to do their part. Frequent hand washing, physical distancing and face masks are some of the best tools we’ve got right now as we fight this virus and attempt to rebuild our battered economy.

It might not seem like much, but a simple piece of fabric can help save a job, protect a life and —hopefully soon — defeat this virus.

Kris Johnson is president of the Association of Washington Business, the state’s chamber of commerce and manufacturers association. For more information, visit www.StaySafeWA.com.

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