I am writing to address a confrontation I had with an elderly woman in a Cochrane grocery store this weekend. While selecting groceries, she approached me and asked where my mask was. Surprised, I replied that it was my right to choose not to wear one. Masks are not required in public spaces in Cochrane (with some exceptions). She curtly replied that she was protecting me by wearing a mask, but I was not protecting her. Opting not to engage in the argument she clearly wanted to have, I instead smiled and walked away. The comment from this woman left me uneasy and I am using this opportunity to defend those who consciously decide to not wear a mask. For those who assume our decision is selfish and ignorant— It is often the opposite. This woman claimed she was protecting me from something she herself feared— Her motives were self-serving. I would encourage the elderly and immune-compromised to take advantage of the pick-up service that grocery stores offer now and not put yourself at risk if you feel anxious. You are making a choice to be in a very public area with people who are free to make a choice to wear a mask or not. It is not your right to be condescending and rude to others due to your personal anxieties.
The government has done an excellent job of stirring up fear and using it to their advantage. Since March we have given up our rights to spend time with friends and family, our rights to work, our children's right to education, our right to travel freely (even within our own country), our right to effective government (suspended parliament), and for many the right to timely healthcare. These freedoms should not be conceded so easily. I am reminded of my grandparents who lived in Europe during the Second World War. They experienced the horrors of both Fascist Germany and Communist Russia. Liberties that we once took for granted were hard-won and can slip away before we realize it. I am worried for my young children's future and what will be taken from their lives.
Recent scientific evidence regarding COVID-19 and its impact in Alberta is clear. The average age of those who die from this virus is higher than the average age of death for Canadians. What we once feared in March, a huge rise in hospitalization and influx in urgent care, never came to be. Studies suggest that transmission from surfaces is negligent. It is important to keep this in perspective and keep our critical thinking intact. We may not all agree on how to respond to this risk— But, it is essential that we treat each other with common decency instead of suspicion and hostility. I wear a mask when required as does my family. If you are in public and feel the need to chastise someone because of your own fears, please reconsider.