Ben Garves

It’s time for zero tolerance on mask ignorance

Some people are using creative solutions as alternatives to contemporary masks, which is fine, as long as they wear something. Anything.

As the world surpasses 1.7 million COVID-19 deaths, we're well-past the time for zero tolerance on those who choose not to wear a mask. This needs to be treated as a dangerous crime and has to have a commensurate punishment. Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

Today I’ve decided I’m done being nice and kindly asking people to wear masks. We’re way past the point where society should tolerate endangering behavior from the few. The mutations, the deaths, the economic crisis, this could all have been avoided had the freedom of the few to be ignorant not been treated like it outweighed the safety of the vast many and especially of the vulnerable. 

This month represents yet more records in the scale of this pandemic. There are 700,000 new cases and 13,000 new deaths every day. That’s just the latest in almost 78 million cases worldwide since the start of and it’s resulted in over 1.7 million deaths. 322,000 of which have occurred here. 

Let’s put that in context, both in scale and historical commensurate reactions we’ve had in the United States to human-caused tragedies at home:

Why do I say this? Because there have been 322,000 COVID-related deaths in the United States and somehow people are still walking around without masks on. It is time to be angry and it is time to empower our community leaders to punish people who continue to endanger the lives of others around them.

And I’m not talking about a slap on the wrist or a fine. The time has passed for that. I’m talking about real, significant punishment for those who willfully create a dangerous environment for those around them.

In New York, reckless endangerment carries a sentence of up to seven years in prison. Merriam Webster defines reckless endangerment as “the offense of recklessly engaging in conduct that creates a substantial risk of serious physical injury or death to another person”. Tell me someone not wearing a mask isn’t recklessly endangering the lives of those around them.

Also in New York, if I die from negligent homicide, what’s often referred to as involuntary manslaughter, the punishment is up to fifteen years in prison. Tell me someone who is not wearing a mask, who kills me, is not negligent and isn’t committing homicide.

And, if I die because someone has ignored every warning, every sign, every ounce of scientific guidance out there and has killed me because they decided not to wear a mask, tell me they’re not responsible for attempted manslaughter, carrying a minimum sentence of 20 years and a maximum sentence of life in prison. 

I want to add, as I wrap things up, that I have never come down on the totalitarian side of the political spectrum. But I believe we should be protected from those who willfully ignore the danger they’re putting our lives in. We should have zero tolerance for it. We license our vehicles and we punish people who kill others without abiding by the legal constraints of driving. We license our gun ownership and we punish people who kill others in negligent use of those guns. 

There should be no debate left to have about whether not wearing a mask is dangerous behavior, and we have every right to be mad and demand a punishment that is commensurate with the crime of endangering lives. Maybe not a year in prison, but something tangible and something motivating that will stop the ignorant behavior of endangering lives simply because you think a mask is uncomfortable or uncool. 

You know what the perfect punishment would be? House arrest. If you can’t be adult enough to responsibly wear a mask, then you are not allowed out here with the grown-ups. We will seat you at the proverbial children’s table until you grow up.

That wraps it up for today. Thanks for listening to the Ben Garves Podcast, at the intersection of health, activism, and technology. Don’t forget, Fitness is for Everyone.


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