War on COVID-19 can be won by wearing a mask



Are we at war with COVID-19?

That was the explicit message from the leaders of St. Louis hospitals last week, as they emphasized how they’re fighting a battle on the frontline of a raging pandemic, with hospitals soon filled to capacity and no backup “army” in sight. They asked Missouri’s general, so to speak, Gov. Mike Parson, to bring down case levels through a state mask mandate.

“Make no mistake, we’re at war, and right here, right now, the virus is winning that war,” said Dr. Alex Garza, who has served in the military and as the chief medical officer of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Parson was just elected Nov. 3 after a campaign in which he said he would leave mask mandates up to local jurisdictions like St. Louis County. So while he probably won’t change his mind, he should.

He would be following in the footsteps of GOP governors in liberal bastions like Texas and Arkansas, and Parson could show Missourians that they need to be wearing masks. National polls show that most Republicans support mask mandates.

Garza and local health leaders are not the first to make this comparison. Even President Donald Trump, who called the coronavirus a hoax and has repeatedly said it would be magically eradicated by the day after the election, Nov. 4, actually called himself a “wartime president” in March.

Living through a war can require a shared sacrifice, one we continue to honor each year on Veterans Day (see Page 1A).

But Missouri, especially rural Missouri, has a history of going above and beyond for war efforts. During World War I, “Missouri mules” were sent by the thousands to the trenches to help our soldiers fight that long, lonely war. Springfield, Missouri alone sent $2 million of mules overseas.

If we can raise mules to send them over oceans to help soldiers thousands of miles away, we can wear masks to protect our neighbors right next to us. It’s so much easier to participate in this war effort than the one 100 years ago, no mules required.

With or without a mandate, Missourians should wear masks for “Uncle Sam” and themselves. We can do it.