EDITORIAL: Wearing a mask is vital to preventing the coronavirus spread

The state and nation continue to reopen under a new normal due to the coronavirus pandemic, but many people seem to think COVID-19 is in the rearview mirror as evidenced by the lack of social distancing and refusal to wear masks in public places.

On today's Opinion page, columnist Adrienne Ross writes about her experience traveling to New York and being reminded to bring her mask everywhere she goes. She's not a fan. She shares a perspective echoed by some politicians: If wearing a mask makes you feel safer, then wear a mask. But that misses the point of why masks are important.

It's true, if you're improperly wearing a mask it will provide little benefit. That's why it's vital that masks be worn properly, not only covering the mouth but also fitted around the nose.

Public health officials have repeatedly said that wearing a mask is less about protecting yourself and more about protecting those you come in contact. One person wearing a mask can help prevent others from becoming infected. And just because you haven't -- or haven't yet -- experienced the symptoms of the virus, you could still be spreading it to others.

Some will argue that public health officials haven't been consistent in their guidance. And to some extent that is true. Saying it's OK to attend a social justice rally with thousands of people but not a church service is a good example. While these inconsistencies are troubling, it doesn't take away from the fact that we're still dealing with the virus.

The bottom line is we have to live life and keep the economy going. Businesses need to remain open. Kids need to return to school. But preventing the COVID-19 spread will require individuals to take personal responsibility. If you can't social distance, you should wear a mask. Wash your hands regularly. Disinfect surfaces. Do it for the elderly. Do it for the people with compromised immune systems. Everyone doing their part will make a difference.