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comparing wearing a mask to wearing a seatbelt

The use of seat belts and masks can prevent harm that we hope will never come to us or others. All our readers probably know this, but it's worth remembering for everyone’s sake. Please be careful and stay safe.

When I first wrote these words, they were intended as a reminder of something that as a scientist is obvious. However, our staff pointed out that some may view them as a political statement. This was not my intention. We then discussed whether or not to pursue this topic. Our mission is to create value for the scientific community and society. On that basis, we decided to move forward with this topic.

Seat belts are known to protect us against injury. Few of us ever think about it and I expect even fewer think of it as a political issue. Likewise, those in health professions and biomedical researchers who work with pathogens or potential pathogens take for granted that wearing a mask can prevent possible harm.

It is true that most of us will not die of COVID-19, but far too many will. It is also true that, especially if one is younger, the chances of survival are greater, but not guaranteed. One may be comfortable with that choice. Failing to use a seat belt may injure only oneself. In the case of an infectious disease, even though you may not experience symptoms, you may spread to others, who spread it to others, who may become seriously ill or die. It is not just a personal choice.

At ABS, all of us wear masks whenever we are near others. It is for our own protection and for the protection of others. Are the masks completely effective? Probably not. However, it is clear that masks do provide some protection. They are also a sign that we care about one another and that in itself has value.

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