Pushing the Edge with Glenn Mangurian: “Wear a Mask, Keep Us Healthy, Save the Economy”

"Pushing the Edge" by Glenn Mangurian is the newest regular column in the Hingham Anchor. You can learn more about the author below.  

June 21, 2020 by Glenn Mangurian

I recently read a story about an all too common occurrence. Lori, a lifetime asthmatic who runs a general store, recounted that she tried her best to be polite about wearing a mask. She'd frame it to customers as if they were doing her a big favor by posting a sign reading: "Would you please consider wearing a mask? May we offer you a free mask? We sure do appreciate your cooperation." She shared that often people would walk by the sign and come in without a mask. She would try to get their attention and point to the sign. The response would be something like, "You're infringing on my rights. This is a free country, and I'm here to shop, so who's going to stop me?"

Somehow wearing a mask during these challenging times has become controversial. Some would have us believe that health and the economy are at odds. Aren't they related? Our economy is driven by consumer spending. Consumer spending is a function of consumer confidence. People won't be confident in shopping if they fear being infected by Covid-19.

Scientists tell us that Covid-19 is an airborne disease. The CDC recommends that people wear cloth face coverings in public settings especially when other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain. It makes sense to me. But, why won't everyone wear a mask in public?

In addition to the personal liberties argument, there are other reasons people give to avoid wearing a face covering. For many, the novel coronavirus is an abstraction. The fact that you may not know anyone yet who has contracted the virus shouldn't influence your behavior now. The CDC estimates that as many as 40% of those infected are asymptomatic. One of those asymptomatic people could be standing near you without a mask. Some fear that face coverings can actually be harmful.Those with chronic respiratory illness must be careful. For the rest of us, the fibers the masks are made of aren't dense enough to block the exchange of gases, like oxygen or carbon dioxide. And the masks aren't so tight that air can't get in around the sides. Added to these objections our public leaders are offering competing messages which confuse many and give someone an excuse to not wear any face covering.

Some of you may remember political advisor, James Carville's now famous declaration, "It's the economy, stupid." The 2020 version might be, "It's the pandemic, stupid." As the former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Tom Frieden says. "If people don't feel safe going out, we're not going to get our economy back."

Isn't this a time for personal responsibility and good citizenship? "Wear a mask, keep us safe and save the economy."

Glenn Mangurian has been a resident of Hingham for 35 years. He is a retired business leader with more than four decades of experience driving innovation and results with his clients. Glenn remains active with his writing, speaking, family, and community. 

In May 2001, Glenn suffered an injury to his spinal cord, resulting in the paralysis of his lower body. Drawing on his personal experience, he authored an article titled “Realizing What You’re Made Of,” which was published in March 2007 in the Harvard Business Review. In May 2017 he published his first book, Pushing the Edge of Thought, Possibility and Action – Questions and Insights from Everyday Life.

Glenn Mangurian can be reached at: [email protected]

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