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June 26, 2020

Want sports? Wear a mask — it's that simple

It will also, you know, save people's lives

Sports is sort of my livelihood.

Just as it does for passionate fans, the day-to-day drama around the attempted re-start of sports has massive implications not just for me, but for thousands of others for whom sports is a way of life, or even a living.

The more people get ill from this deadly virus, the more likely it is that the NFL, college football or even the NBA vanishes — again. And we are setting records, as June 25 saw more confirmed cases of COVID-19 than any other day, ever. 

It is beyond frustrating seeing people question the value or effectiveness of wearing masks in public. In my opinion, it's a godsend. Are you a religious person? Wearing a mask is our Noah's Arc.

Very few of us are medical researchers. Even fewer of us are the scientists who are working globally around the clock looking for cures and treatments for COVID-19. As of right now there is none, which means stopping this thing from spreading is our only chance. And we can do it.

We have an opportunity, one that can not only save tens of thousands of lives, but also preserve the best chance of sports actually resuming. Wear a mask. Cover your face. 

Yes, it's really, really inconvenient. More than once, I left my car without it and had to go back to get it. It fogs up my glasses. It's super uncomfortable around my ears. It forces me to smell my lunch the entire time I am shopping for groceries. But it saves lives. Lives of people I probably won't see, but that's okay.

My outlook on this has changed sharply. At first, I was embarrassed and steadfastly against becoming paranoid and scared. So much for that. Wearing a mask has become almost dutiful for me. When I get to Giant, or Wawa, I feel like I am actively doing something to help — even though I know I don't have COVID-19 (I haven't left my house for non food or golf purposes for four months). I feel like it's my civic duty, like voting.

And you should, too. All over the place, I am seeing friends of mine — from high school mostly — questioning how a layer of cloth can do anything to save a life. 

Here is a piece of research from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation:

In its first projections comparing different actions to control COVID-19 transmission, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington is forecasting nearly 180,000 in the United States will die by October 1.

The forecast shows 179,106 deaths (with a range of 159,497 to 213,715). Those numbers drop to 146,047 (with a range of 140,849 to 153,438), if at least 95 percent of people wear masks in public.

“There is no doubt that even as states open up, the United States is still grappling with a large epidemic on a course to increase beginning in late August and intensifying in September,” said IHME Director Dr. Christopher Murray. “People need to know that wearing masks can reduce transmission of the virus by as much as 50 percent, and those who refuse are putting their lives, their families, their friends, and their communities at risk.” []

Stopping the spread by 50 percent is insanely high — especially when you consider the scale of 331 million people. That's over 30,000 people's lives we can save (with more to come, this study is just through October). That's more people than can sell out a Sixers game.

The science seems clear, but even if you are murky on it, you have nothing to lose if you're wrong. People could die if you are. 

It's hard to live in the abstraction that is the data this virus is churning out. It's easier to conclude, in your day-to-day life, "I feel healthy, I don't feel at risk, I am not wearing a mask."

I know, you almost certainly don't have it. You know you don't have it, so why wear a mask — when a mask's intention is to stop the spread and not save you from getting it? Well, the point is, everyone has to do it. If people justify not wearing it because they don't think they have COVID-19 and they feel healthy, then other people will justify it too. Healthy or no, you have to make the gesture. The virus spreads amongst folks who show no symptoms. 

Wearing a mask helps convince others to wear one, which eventually helps slow the spread, because SOMEONE out there has it.

And I know, it's "violating your personal freedom." Freedom of expression, of privacy, all of those things are trumpeted by those who are resisting wearing a mask in one of the 34 states without face covering-requirements. But, you know, you have to wear pants, too. Public nudity is illegal — where are the freedom warriors on that one?

What does all this have to do with sports?

Positive cases are starting to show up everywhere. The PGA Tour saw five players withdraw this week. Major League Baseball has had mini-outbreaks in several team facilities, including the Phillies. Colleges looking to ramp up their offseason activities have seen football players test positive.

We have a direct impact on these numbers. In Texas and Florida cases are exploding. How can we have college football without safe college campuses in Texas and Florida?

I implore you, wear a mask. Stay away from strangers and make smart decisions. It's about personal responsibility and not enough people are taking it. Don't want the government telling you what to do? Take safety into your own hands. Your decisions impact the health of others and the bottom line of countless businesses trying to get back to normal.

There is plenty in this world we need you to take a stand on. Making the decision to support the continued spread of this virus is not a hill to die on. Because while it might not kill you, it could kill 30,000 other people.

Follow Evan on Twitter:@evan_macy

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