My wife and I are over 65, plus she has an immune-deficient disease. In an effort to avoid COVID-19, we prefer to patronize businesses that follow state health guidelines, including requiring face coverings for employees and customers.

We were shopping at a local farm last week and casually suggested that the people there consider wearing masks. We have done business with this family for five or six years, spending perhaps $1,000 annually, and had considered them as friends. Their aggressive response, therefore, was truly a shock. We were told that we could wear masks if we chose, but they would not and if “we weren’t comfortable with that, we could take our business elsewhere.”

I am at a loss to understand how such a simple method of keeping one another safe has become a red-hot, divisive political issue. One hundred years ago, the “Spanish” flu killed in excess of 50 million people worldwide, including an estimated 675,000 Americans. (My mother was born at home in December 1918, because her mother was afraid to go to hospital.)

During this period, Philadelphia resisted social distancing and mask wearing guidelines, while St. Louis embraced them. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Philadelphia’s death rate per 100,000 people was estimated to be 817, while the St. Louis rate was 422.

Maine does not (yet!) have an enforceable law mandating that all businesses follow CDC guidelines, but I believe that there is something we can do about it. If enough of us stop patronizing non-compliant businesses, perhaps our combined economic pressure can help local businesses see the light.

Please understand that while I completely support your right to risk your life to make a political statement, you do not have the right to risk my life or my wife’s life while doing so.

Skip Gates

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