A cashier helps a customer in a Vons grocery store in Long Beach in December 2020. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
Orange County School of the Arts

Column: In defense of the worker — Wear your mask

A couple of months ago, I was working the door of Brandy Melville, a bohemian clothing store located in Orange County. Due to the new realities of the COVID-19 pandemic, employees are obligated to keep the store below maximum capacity — hence my facilitation of the line outside.

Towards the middle of the afternoon, someone marched in without a mask. I felt a little out of place; laden with protective gear, standing in front of a seemingly naked woman. I asked her, politely, to put on her mask.

She laughed, called me ridiculous and walked away. I couldn’t begin to tell you how utterly powerless I felt.

The refusal of customers to wear masks in the United States is not a rare occurrence — in fact, it’s an all too common phenomenon that harms thousands of employees. Thus, in order to protect our workers, mask-wearing should always be mandated by both state and federal law.

During these trying times, it is easy to overlook the safety of American workers. Despite the tireless efforts of Governor Newsom, the Los Angeles Times estimates that mask-wearing in the so-called Golden State is “spotty” at best. What accounts for this blatant ignorance? Admittedly, our own president condones it.

At the President Trump town hall on Oct. 15, 2020, moderator Savannah Guthrie stated that if he implored the American public to “put on a mask right now… the University of Washington says [he] would save lives.” He replied, explaining that “a lot of places say a lot of different things.”

The president’s words, his actions, have a resounding effect on the attitudes of Americans when it comes to COVID-19. According to AXIOS IPSOS, the overall number of Americans concerned by the virus remains unchanged since July.

This information startled me. Despite recent evidence that Trump actively misled countless Americans, many still ignore the actual science of the virus.

Trump’s words aren’t the only thing inhibiting action. 

According to Fox News, one parent-run anti-mask group raised $11,300 to oppose mask mandates in the Sarasota County School district. Personally, I have seen countless teens roaming the public without masks. The way parents educate their children, admittedly, has a profound effect on the safety of American workers.

Despite this blatant ignorance, there is still hope for the United States. Models from the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation (University of Washington) revealed that as of Sept. 23, 2020, increasing mask-wearing in the United States to 95% could save nearly 100,000 lives.

As a working individual, I am desperate to protect the lives of my colleagues. I implore both local and state governments to aid in this fight. Raise fines for non-mask wearing in public. Work to improve the knowledge of Americans across the country. Openly condemn ignorance and anti-science. 

And for goodness sake, protect your workers.