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Please, wear a mask

The longer the COVID-19 pandemic wears on, the more obvious it becomes that America has become horrifically polarized.

The mere existence of the virus itself, even though it’s scientific fact, is apparently up for debate on social media, which is not well known for hosting reasonable discussions among reasonable people. The genesis of the virus, how easily it spreads, whether it causes an illness worse than seasonal influenza, how many people it has really sickened and killed, the best ways to treat it and prevent its spread, the leadership (or lack thereof) of elected and appointed officials at every level and the media’s coverage of all of these things have become flashpoints for disagreement, attacks and hate.

If you needed any further evidence that America is polarized, look no further than the fact it’s usually pretty easy to tell the political leanings of a person simply by their thoughts on any of the above topics.

That continued on Tuesday when Gov. Ralph Northam ordered all Virginians over the age of 10 to wear a mask indoors in public places.

Now, Northam was already a polarizing figure before the pandemic started, having endured two contemporaneous scandals last year that centered on two of the most polarizing topics in the United States — race and abortion.

But you would think that the importance of a simple measure that protects others from catching a serious illness and potentially dying is something on which everyone could agree. If you forgot for a second that we live in a divided nation, the reaction to Tuesday’s order surely reminded you.

Opponents of Northam have already raised good questions about the mask order, including whether the governor has the constitutional or moral authority to issue such an order and whether it’s fair to expect business owners to police their own customers when professional law enforcement has been asked not to make arrests for violation of this order.

It’s also reasonable to be concerned about government overreach in these times, but many of the same people fretting about it now were not concerned about pre-pandemic overreach that simply didn’t affect them.

None of the concerns about the mask order itself should stop you from wearing a mask when indoors in a public place. Evidence shows it can help prevent the spread of the virus, and taking simple measures that could protect your family and neighbors should be of the utmost concern.