Many have experienced the flash of fear. A cough, tickle in the throat, headache, stiffness. Symptoms that eight months ago would have generated nary a second thought now force us to silently ask ourselves, “Do I have COVID-19?”

Trick-or-treating mask Editorial

A little masking didn’t ruin trick-or-treating for Dorothy and a pair of Spidermen as they walked a yellow brick road Sunday to pick some candy off a Watson Street yard. 

This is normal at a time when Wisconsin, and to be fair, most of our country is taxing to the limit its health-care professionals, filling ICU beds, closing schools and businesses, and in other ways threatening to further disrupt the lives of all of us, healthy and sick.

But it doesn’t have to be.

Last week a modeling study from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation showed that more than a half million Americans may die from COVID-19 by the end of February 2021, but around 130,000 of those lives could be saved if everybody wore masks.

Meanwhile, our state leaders are busy filing lawsuits. Our City Council refuses to pass even a toothless resolution asking residents to protect each other. And our law enforcement refuses to enforce the governor’s emergency health orders.

Our own Fond du Lac County Sheriff Ryan Waldschmidt could have had his deputies enforce the governor’s mask requirement. His decision to ignore the order has resulted in our county’s public health workers are so overwhelmed by mounting cases that their contact tracing backlog is eight days behind, rendering the process useless.

So our leaders largely have failed us.

It’s now— and we’ve said it here before — up to us.

In that spirit, the Ripon Public School District and Ripon College have dashboards showing the rate of COVID-19 contraction within the district and schools. Two Ripon High School teachers daily are updating a website — www.riponcovid19.org/local-covid-19-cases — that gives us real-time data about how the COVID wave once visible from Ripon’s shores now engulfs the city (more than 300 cases). And our ad hoc COVID-19 task force better than anyone in town for seven months has helped prepare, equip and inform residents.

Sheriff Waldschmidt has asked us to “respect each other’s individual decision whether or not to wear a mask.”

Sorry, sheriff.

We would no sooner respect the decision to not wear a mask than we would respect our children for driving without a license, endangering themselves and other motorists.

So no, sheriff, the same “individual decision” making you asked us to respect two months ago has brought us to where we are today: Living in a state in a country at a time when our president held a rally in Waukesha last weekend 30 miles from a field hospital in a West Bend parking lot.

Again, what can we do?

Some say we should boycott businesses where masking is not required.

Here’s a better idea. Let’s put on our masks and, as long as we can safely distance, go where we want.

But when we see someone who is unmasked, let’s cough, loudly and vigorously. Perhaps just once. Maybe more.

Call it a non-violent protest.

The unmasked may not respect the law but they surely will fear the hacking of another as they stand unprotected, wondering whether they might inhale someone else’s viral vapors.

This is not passive-aggressive tomfoolery. It’s deadly serious, literally. To quote the late Rep. John Lewis, it’s “good trouble” of the best sort if it causes the unmasked to protect themselves and others at a time when those in authority choose to look the other way.

You can do it. Just cough. Bless you.

— Tim Lyke

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(11) comments

Dale Failor

Promises made, promises kept, what world are you in? Michael is right, how did RCP allow this comment to be made. Baby killers, give me a break.

Sallie Helmer

Great Barrington Declaration

"As infectious disease epidemiologists and public health scientists we have grave concerns about the damaging physical and mental health impacts of the prevailing COVID-19 policies, and recommend an approach we call Focused Protection.

Coming from both the left and right, and around the world, we have devoted our careers to protecting people. Current lockdown policies are producing devastating effects on short and long-term public health. The results (to name a few) include lower childhood vaccination rates, worsening cardiovascular disease outcomes, fewer cancer screenings and deteriorating mental health – leading to greater excess mortality in years to come, with the working class and younger members of society carrying the heaviest burden. Keeping students out of school is a grave injustice.

Keeping these measures in place until a vaccine is available will cause irreparable damage, with the underprivileged disproportionately harmed.

Fortunately, our understanding of the virus is growing. We know that vulnerability to death from COVID-19 is more than a thousand-fold higher in the old and infirm than the young. Indeed, for children, COVID-19 is less dangerous than many other harms, including influenza.

As immunity builds in the population, the risk of infection to all – including the vulnerable – falls. We know that all populations will eventually reach herd immunity – i.e. the point at which the rate of new infections is stable – and that this can be assisted by (but is not dependent upon) a vaccine. Our goal should therefore be to minimize mortality and social harm until we reach herd immunity.

The most compassionate approach that balances the risks and benefits of reaching herd immunity, is to allow those who are at minimal risk of death to live their lives normally to build up immunity to the virus through natural infection, while better protecting those who are at highest risk. We call this Focused Protection.

Adopting measures to protect the vulnerable should be the central aim of public health responses to COVID-19. By way of example, nursing homes should use staff with acquired immunity and perform frequent PCR testing of other staff and all visitors. Staff rotation should be minimized. Retired people living at home should have groceries and other essentials delivered to their home. When possible, they should meet family members outside rather than inside. A comprehensive and detailed list of measures, including approaches to multi-generational households, can be implemented, and is well within the scope and capability of public health professionals.

Those who are not vulnerable should immediately be allowed to resume life as normal. Simple hygiene measures, such as hand washing and staying home when sick should be practiced by everyone to reduce the herd immunity threshold. Schools and universities should be open for in-person teaching. Extracurricular activities, such as sports, should be resumed. Young low-risk adults should work normally, rather than from home. Restaurants and other businesses should open. Arts, music, sport and other cultural activities should resume. People who are more at risk may participate if they wish, while society as a whole enjoys the protection conferred upon the vulnerable by those who have built up herd immunity."

On October 4, 2020, this declaration was authored and signed in Great Barrington, United States, by:

Dr. Martin Kulldorff, professor of medicine at Harvard University, a biostatistician, and epidemiologist with expertise in detecting and monitoring infectious disease outbreaks and vaccine safety evaluations.

Dr. Sunetra Gupta, professor at Oxford University, an epidemiologist with expertise in immunology, vaccine development, and mathematical modeling of infectious diseases.

Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, professor at Stanford University Medical School, a physician, epidemiologist, health economist, and public health policy expert focusing on infectious diseases and vulnerable populations."

After November 4, 2020 and the election is over--- we won't hear any more about Covid.

Eric P Godfrey

Excellent editorial. Just three comments. #1 - I also disagree with coughing as a protest; if I see an unmasked person, I move as far away as possible. Instead, call it to the attention of the store manager. I have - I tell them if they allow unmasked people in their store, a-it makes it unlikely I will be their customer any more, and b-they are violating a lawful order by the governor. #2 - in addition to not patronizing stores that do not require masks, it's important to compliment the owners/managers of the stores that do, and emphasize that's what is keeping me as their customer. #3 - for the shrinking minority who complain masks violate their freedom, it isn't actually THEIR freedom. It is freedom they have stolen from others ... by refusing to wear a mask, they limit the mobility (freedom) of those of us who want to stay safe and healthy, not to mention the freedom of those whom they inadvertently infect. And occasionally might kill.

Sallie Helmer

The only thing worse than Covid-19 would be Biden-20.

Michael Shohoney

Oh, Sallie, you are so predictable. Wear a mask!

Sallie Helmer

Oh, Michael, you are so predictable. I do wear a mask.

Comment deleted.
Michael Shohoney

What does this have to do with this editorial? Why is this even here? Sallie, stay on topic. Follow the bouncing ball.

Jerald Davidson

Very good, Tim, though I do not think coughing on them is necessary, even symbolically - without masks they should be spreading, among themselves, in Donald Trump's words, "herd mentality".

Dale Failor

I agree with everything in your letter Mr. Lyke except the cough part. People that are crazy enough not to wear a mask are also crazy enough to pull out a gun and shoot you. I have and will continue to boycott stores that will not enforce the mask mandate. This is a safer approach.

Law enforcement is not helping Tony Evers at all. They are backing Trump and the Union that protects the police from all their bad calls. Evers is trying to get this state back where it should be but the Wi supreme court "Republicans" are challenging all his efforts to protect our state. Instead of trying to fix our states problems like Evers is trying to do the Republicans are fighting in court to keep it going down hill. Wake up, Wi is third in the highest amount of COVID cases. Let Tony Evers protect us like he is trying to do. Biden has the right idea and Trump is DEAD WRONG.

Michael Shohoney

Tim, great editorial. The level of selfishness and ignorance in our community astounds me. When I talk about mask wearing, I'm told to stay home if I'm scared. As if their right to endanger others and act recklessly, trumps (no pun intended) my right to safely go where I have to go (grocery store, post office, my office). I do not go to optional places (restaurants, bars, etc.). This falls on the heels of an article recently in the paper where Ripon was the number one war bond selling community per capita during World War II. The sacrifices the people of Ripon made at that time, as a community, as citizens (in the philosophical (Plato) sense) was selfless. It's really too bad that that trait was not passed down to all of the generations that followed. We should truly be ashamed that we cannot come together over our current enemy, a virus.

Kristina Knight

Thank you, Mr. Lyke, for standing on the side of public health, unlike our state's lawmakers.

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