The COVID-19 crisis has been so draining for so long, it seems like we’ve been living like this for years.
But really, it has been less than four months since the disease first was detected in Louisiana.
It was only six weeks ago that we began our phased reentry, led by Gov. John Bel Edwards, who has been following the guidance from the Trump administration.
Since then, we have been able to eat in restaurants, meet up at bars, shop at the mall, and go to church.
An uptick in cases this month has halted progress, with the extension of Phase 2, and it would be bad news for Louisiana if political leaders had to reimpose restrictions that devastated our economy in March and April, as some states have been forced to do.
But that’s what we are facing if we do not take it upon ourselves to follow safety protocols, chiefly by wearing masks in public.
So political leaders like Jefferson Parish President Cynthia Lee Sheng are doing the right thing by instructing their constituents to wear masks. Orleans Parish has similar rules, and Mayor LaToya Cantrell Monday called out businesses where she said employees were not masking properly.
Mask wearing is hard to enforce, and Edwards has shied away from a statewide requirement for that reason. Lee Sheng will issue her order Tuesday, so her 430,000 constituents see for themselves what kind of enforcement she has in mind. She said Monday that jailing violators seems excessive, and we agree. But there are lesser sanctions available.
Some see the mask requirement as an imposition on their freedoms, but an orderly society functions with all sorts of curtailments, from speed limits to traffic lights to noise ordinances to zoning.
But indifference may be a bigger problem than defiance. Masks are inconvenient and uncomfortable, especially as the summer heat settles in. And the coronavirus is an invisible killer, so many young people think it’s someone else’s problem.
If political leaders would have a difficult time enforcing mask mandates, they do have the authority to shut down commerce and recreation and worship in the interest of public safety. And nobody wants to see Louisiana go back to where we were in April, Phase Zero, and start all over again.