As a former university business professor and entrepreneur I often told my students and associates: Business is not rocket science. If you do a few simple things really well you can succeed. I believe this to be true as it relates to one fundamental basic action that could be taken in every state in America during this pandemic to save lives and help get our economy back on track.
That action is this. Require – yes, require – anyone who goes out in public and will be around other people in any setting to wear a mask to protect others. The research is definitive now that wearing masks in public settings when around others will absolutely, unequivocally, cut down on COVID-19 cases.
Virus transmissions are down and businesses are getting back on track where this is being practiced. Seventy-plus countries and more than 10 states at last count now require it. In addition, 88% of the world lives in countries where the government and leading disease experts agree that masks are effective at reducing the spread of COVID-19, including our own Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Wearing a mask is now, finally, required in the White House.
So what is the real problem? Again no rocket science here. Governments cannot simply suggest this, they must require it with laws and ordinances until a vaccine or cure has been found. Leaders of government entities have to be good role models and actually wear masks as well. This is leadership at the most basic level. The best leaders I have been around in my lifetime lead by example. Now before I lose those of you who think this comes from just another liberal left-wing crazy person who believes in government overreach, hear me out.
It is common knowledge now, supported by definitive data, that a very high percentage of people are asymptomatic carriers. Not to insult anyone’s intelligence but at the most basic level this means you may feel great but are carrying the virus and transmitting it unknowingly to someone else, be it friends, family or random strangers. Governments must leverage their ability through laws and ordinances to get this message out because too many people still do not understand this important fact. Suggestions are not enough! We are way beyond that. Just go to your local pharmacy or grocery store here in Fort Worth and see for yourself how many people are not adhering to those suggestions, going in without masks and without regard for others’ health.
I’d like to give people the benefit of the doubt that most understand and appreciate concepts like The Golden Rule and Love Thy Neighbor. Unfortunately, if they do not really understand that the simple act of wearing a face mask in public settings is the ultimate expression of “doing unto others as you would have them do unto you” or “loving thy neighbor” then it likely won’t happen. Laws and ordinances, if communicated properly and sensitively, will be the education many people need to finally understand this important point. Sadly, somehow, this apparently has become a political issue. Politics should be irrelevant in this particular discussion. This is not a Democrat or Republican issue. It is a life or death issue and I believe it is simple common sense. Science and responsible nonpartisan leadership really do matter.
A number of government leaders and “anti-mask advocates” suggest this is an infringement on people’s rights and yet another government overreach. To them, I submit, this is no different than laws and ordinances we have all across our country that are put in place to protect people and in many cases help save lives. A great analogy is the laws and ordinances that prohibit smoking in public places. While once very controversial, most Americans have now embraced this because they have come to appreciate the fact that government does not allow other people to kill them with secondhand smoke. A select few might still think it is an infringement on their rights but those people are few and far between.
Another example would be a law that requires you to drive 30 miles per hour in a residential area. Is that government overreaching? Of course it is not. I do not know of anyone who would be OK with someone driving 60 in their neighborhood and possibly running over them, their children or their pets. Are laws that punish people for driving under the influence government overreaching? Of course they are not. They exist to help protect society, just like laws requiring people to wear a mask would be.
This idea of wearing a mask is just plain common sense in these pandemic times. The laws could be created in a sensible fashion similar to the nonsmoking laws. If you are conceivably going to put someone in harm’s way, you wear a mask. I really think it’s that simple.
So how does this get the economy back on track? Again, there is no rocket science here! When virus transmissions go down – which, by the way, they will when people are required to wear masks – and people feel safe going into places of business or even in to their own work environment, increased economic activity will follow.
Yale researchers in a paper dated April 6, 2020, titled The Case for Universal Cloth Mask Adoption and Policies to Increase Supply of Medical Masks for Health Workers found that “the benefits of each additional cloth mask worn by the public are conservatively in the $3,000-$6,000 range due to their impact in slowing the spread of the virus.” This, if even close, is a staggering number and a compelling reason for our government leaders to make this a law. Now that we are opening our economy back up this simple measure will slow this virus down appreciably and conceivably help prevent the most feared outcome of a second horrible economic wave.
Our government has put trillions of dollars toward helping businesses and our most vulnerable during this pandemic. I think that is fabulous. Sadly, though, not enough government entities have taken arguably the simplest, most cost-effective step imaginable to reduce transmissions, save lives, and get our economy back on track. Make wearing masks the law until a vaccine or cure can be found and you will likely not have that second wave hit us and need to spend another 3 trillion dollars of tax money and suffer through years of economic despair in our country. So simple, so obvious, so ignored – and this decision does not cost a penny!
I’m pleading with all government leaders to enact these laws and ordinances right away. I’d also ask that all opinion leaders who have a platform of any kind try to push for this initiative. Whether you are a political leader, a journalist, a social media influencer, a teacher or a preacher, a business leader or an activist, we need this message sent to our government leaders. If you have a platform, please leverage that platform, and be the role models and difference makers for society that you can be.
This really is not rocket science!
David Minor was the founding director of the Neeley Entrepreneurship Center at TCU and was awarded the title of Founder Emeritus in 2011. He is a speaker and consultant, has owned multiple businesses, and was inducted into the initial class of The Fort Worth Business Press Hall of Fame in 2016.