Eight years ago my family moved from Taiwan to my hometown of KC. The first semester of school my son, a second grader, caught a cold so we sent him to school with a mask. This was a normal part of going to school in Taiwan: when you’re sick you wear a mask so you don’t get other people sick.
About an hour after the start of school I received a call from the school nurse. She said a number of staff and teachers had contacted her about my son, asking what kind of illness he had. Does he have cancer? No, I replied, just a common cold. The nurse told me that because his mask was making others uncomfortable, she wanted to have him take it off. She promised to teach him how to cough into his elbow.
To say that we were floored by this is an understatement. Of all the people in the school, surely the nurse would be the one to understand the value of a mask, yet she was the one prioritizing feelings over public health.
At breakfast today we discussed this experience in the context of how far we’ve come as a community and as a country. Our county health department released a mask mandate a few months back, and though there are many people who complain, I’ve only seen two people break the mandate. (One of them was a guy wearing a pith helmet with a mosquito net in the grocery store. He looked a bit crazy but seemed very pleased with himself.)
We’ve come a long way. We still have a long way to go, but we’ve changed so much already and I’m happy we’re heading in the right direction.