'Freedom Cafe' description is a perfect response to arguments against mask requirements

To mask or to mask? That is the question millions of Americans are asking as more cities and states are implementing mask requirements in public to stem the tide of the coronavirus pandemic.

The polarization on this issue is frankly a little baffling. The science is clear on how and why universal masking is effective at limiting the spread of the coronavirus. (Viruses don't fly out of people's bodies by themselves—they get carried in droplets. Masks help us keep our droplets to ourselves when we talk, laugh, cough or sneeze.)

For many Americans, science itself is either seen an anathema or a government conspiracy to control the masses. And for many Americans, having the government tell us to do anything at all is seen as infringing on our individual liberties. So here we are, arguing about wearing masks as a public health measure.

Twitter user "Libby" has a satirical take on the issue, one that perfectly illustrates how absurd anti-mask arguments sound in the context of public health.


"Welcome to the Freedom Cafe!" she wrote. "We trust you to make your own choices if you want to wear a face mask. And, in the same spirit of individual liberty, we allow our staff to make their own choices about the safety procedures they prefer to follow as they prepare and serve your food."

"We encourage employees to wash their hands after using the bathroom," she continued, "but understand that some people may be allergic to certain soaps or may simply prefer not to wash their hands. It is not our place to tell them what to do.

We understand that you may be used to chicken that has been cooked to 165 degrees. We do have to respect that some of our cooks may have seen a meme or a YouTube video saying that 100 degrees is sufficient, and we do not want to encroach on their beliefs."

"Some of our cooks may prefer to use the same utensils for multiple ingredients, including ingredients some customers are allergic to. That is a cook's right to do so," she added.

"Some servers may wish to touch your food as they serve it. There is no reason that a healthy person with clean hands can't touch your food. We will take their word for it that they are healthy and clean."

"Water temperature and detergent are highly personal choices, and we allow our dishwashing team to decide how they'd prefer to wash the silverware you will put in your mouth.

Some of you may get sick, but almost everyone survives food poisoning. We think you'll agree that it's a small price to pay for the sweet freedom of no one ever being told what to do - and especially not for the silly reason of keeping strangers healthy."

And there you have it.

Does anyone argue with public health departments establishing requirements for food handling and safety? No. Does anyone complain that such requirements are an infringement on individual liberties? No. Why? Because we all agree that keeping people healthy in public places is super important and that having such requirements in place, no matter what people's personal preferences or beliefs or comfort levels are, is a good idea.

We're not used to thinking of public health as something we all have to actively participate in, but that's absolutely the way we must think of it during a pandemic. Since we're experiencing a reality we've never experienced in our lifetime, we're going to have to expect some changes we've never experienced before as well.

But it's not even like the idea of wearing a mask to protect others is a new idea. Surgeons wear masks to keep fluids away from their faces, but also to keep their own germs out of patients' bodies. When I lived in Japan two decades ago, it was commonplace to see people wearing masks in public because they had a cold and were trying to limit their germ spread as a matter of courtesy.

Stop making mask-wearing a political thing. Stop saying that masks don't work when there is ample evidence now that they do. Masks are used to limit the spread of the virus is practically every country, and our widespread resistance to it in the name of "freedom" has very real consequences.

No one actually likes wearing a mask. It sucks for all of us. But it's the right thing to do because universal masking is only effective if we all actually do it. So toughen up, America. Let's use the freedom we have to do the hard, right thing and show the world we're not as selfish and uninformed as we seem.

Simon & Garfunkel's song "Bridge Over Troubled Water" has been covered by more than 50 different musical artists, from Aretha Franklin to Elvis Presley to Willie Nelson. It's a timeless classic that taps into the universal struggle of feeling down and the comfort of having someone to lift us up. It's beloved for its soothing melody and cathartic lyrics, and after a year of pandemic challenges, it's perhaps more poignant now than ever.

A few years a go, American singer-songwriter Yebba Smith shared a solo a capella version of a part of "Bridge Over Troubled Water," in which she just casually sits and sings it on a bed. It's an impressive rendition on its own, highlighting Yebba's soulful, effortless voice.

But British singer Jacob Collier recently added his own layered harmony tracks to it, taking the performance to a whole other level.

Keep Reading Show less
Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less