Masks- a math problem | Letter

Ms. Smith comes back to Orcas after a day spent with three friends in Bellingham.

One of them, Mr. Jones, didn’t wear a mask to the get-together. He never wears a mask.

The friends discussed the matter and every one of the four de-masked. They weren’t sick and they were all sure they were virus-free but most importantly they each felt very strongly that by not wearing masks they were protecting their civil rights and the civil rights of all Americans.

Unbeknownst to Mr. Jones, he had contracted the coronavirus at the Bellingham Supermarket that morning when he’d passed in the aisle within six feet of someone who was also mask-less, Ms. Stuart. Ms. Stuart was asymptomatic but had picked up the virus from somebody she passed at the hardware store two days ago. Ms. Stuart had not worn her mask, on either occasion, having forgotten it at home.

Finally, late in the day, we meet Mr. Johnson who while waiting out front of the Orcas Coop for the high sign to pick up his box of groceries, puts on his mask. And when signaled, he gets out of his car and heads over to the box with his name on it. Coincidently, Ms. Smith (remember her in paragraph one?) pulls into the space next to Mr. Johnson’s truck just as Mr. Johnson picks up his groceries, his back to the road. He hasn’t yet noticed Ms. Smith, sitting in the front seat of her Studebaker waiting for the signal to claim her own order – an order she’d called in before setting out for Bellingham that morning.

Mr. Johnson puts his groceries in his truck from the passenger door, as he always does. It’s a hot day. Mr. Johnson pulls off his mask, tosses it on the bench seat of the old Ford and swats the passenger door closed. Recognizing her neighbor, Ms. Smith (no mask due to civil rights concerns) greets Mr. Johnson warmly and with a funny story about her cat. (Mr. Johnson has always had a soft spot for Ms. Smith’s cat.)

TRICK QUESTION: How many of the six people in this story die?

HINTS TO THE ANSWER: Masks do not necessarily protect the wearer, although they can help.

Mask wearers wear them to protect their loved ones and anyone else they come in contact with. Until they become sick, people don’t know if they have been infected by the coronavirus. And if they’ve been infected and recover, it is not yet known whether they have developed immunity, though it is under study. Whether a vaccine can be created to inoculate people against the coronavirus is still not known.

For goodness sake, wear a mask. Unless of course your right not to wear a mask is more important than the deaths of your loved ones, friends and neighbors.

Meg Massey

Deer Harbor