'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.

True

If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.