OK, we admit it. We just don’t see what the big deal is about wearing a mask when out in public. Unfortunately, our nation and communities seem to be divided on the issue of mask-wearing.

Those of us of a certain age remember the public outrage when businesses first placed signs on their doors saying “No shirt, no shoes, no service” back in the 1970s. “How dare a business tell us what to wear in their establishment?” was a common complaint. Many patrons thought businesses were trampling on their civil rights by telling them what they could or could not wear.

A similar reaction was heard in the late 1980s when the State of Oklahoma enacted a seat belt law requiring all persons in the front seat to be buckled up. Once again, we felt as if “the government” was telling us what to do and how to live our lives. We came up with all kinds of excuses not to comply — doing so would wrinkle our clothes, the belts were uncomfortable, no one was going to tell what to do in the privacy of our own cars. No one was going to tell us we had to buckle up, even if studies showed that doing so would save lives. A similar hue and cry went up in states that required helmet use by motorcycle riders. (Oklahoma requires it only for those under age 18.)

Now, some 30 years later, we wouldn’t dare enter an establishment without a shirt or shoes on. And as soon as we sit down in a vehicle, we strap on a seat belt. All of those actions have become second nature.

So it is with masks. Businesses should have the right to refuse service to patrons who refuse to wear a mask. If we would all just wear one, then it would become second nature in a matter of weeks. We have heard reports of children who forget to take theirs off when they get home from school because they are so used to wearing them.

As COVID cases continue to soar in Oklahoma, we were glad to see Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt take measures last week to help stem the spread of the virus in the state.

Last Monday, Stitt issued an executive order mandating that bars and restaurants must put tables 6 feet apart and must have partitions between seating arrangements. Those establishments also must close at 11 p.m., beginning last Thursday. In addition, workers in state agencies, and those who visit state agencies, must wear masks.

We are glad to see the governor taking action to help stop a virus which has claimed the lives of 1,588 Oklahomans as of Friday.

We don’t want to see the state — or the city — returned to lockdown as it was in the spring. We need our businesses to stay open. We need people in our community to be employed. But we also need those same employees and patrons to be safe. We just don’t see how closing certain establishments at 11 p.m. is going to help much. Does that mean you can’t get COVID before 10:59 p.m.? Mandating that wait staff wear masks would go a long way toward making the public feel safe about eating out again.

Yes, masks can be uncomfortable and no one really enjoys wearing one. But if doing so gets us back to something approaching “normalcy” more quickly, and will save lives, then it will be worth it. One of those lives saved might be your friend or relative. Or it might be yours.

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