"I Wear A Mask For You, Not For Me"
The City Council round table theme this week brought in the leaders of Park City’s front line COVID-19 responders. At times, heart wrenching, the panelists talked openly about their experiences since the first days of the outbreak and what they believe must happen to keep us all as safe as possible as we re-open the economy and invite visitors back to Summit County.
Wearing masks while in public places and practicing safe distancing have become cultural tropes now that more than 100,000 people in the United States are known to have died from COVID-19. Yet the issue has become politically charged in both local and national discourse.
One of the round table panelists, Park City Hospital Medical Director Dr. Wing Province calls COVID-19 a ruthless virus that doesn’t discriminate based on political beliefs.
“Importance for those who may feel they’re invincible out there who aren’t following these guidelines, that you may not be affected by this but there is an impact that you can have on those around you. As I mentioned, this virus, it doesn't matter, it doesn't care frankly if you're Republican or Democrat. All it cares is that if you're wearing a mask or not, or if your social distancing or not.”
He says the illness frequently takes the lives of the elderly but while he was in New York City working to help that community, he saw plenty of young people who were very sick, in intensive care and on ventilators. He says it takes courage and leadership to put aside the social stigma of wearing a mask in order to help someone else who is more susceptible to the disease.
Park City Police Chief Wade Carpenter offered perspective on how insidious the COVID-19 virus can be after having contracted it despite taking all precautions. His officers wear masks while out in the community or at the station and he’s encouraged them to minimize interactions with the community as much as possible.
“But I’ll tell you when you start listening to those morning numbers and when Rich [Bullough] is saying and we have 400 and this many recovered and you're one of those numbers and you know what the feelings are what it created in your own life, it really changes your perspective of everything. Especially when then my wife got it as well and I didn't realize what kind of impact it had on my 81-year-old mother. But she would call me crying and I started realizing that there is a human element to this versus just being another number.”
People’s Health Clinic Executive Director Beth Armstrong says it’s common for many of their patients to be living in very close conditions, often several families sharing one apartment. The People’s Health Clinic has had great success with tele-health visits and offers free COVID-19 testing.
She says there are simple things people can do to keep themselves and others as safe as possible. She says wearing a mask is an act of kindness.
“I wear my mask for you when you wear yours for me. I believe that and when they're not wearing their mask, I feel like they're putting me at risk. I had to fight with being upset about it and realize that I can only control my circle. And tell anybody out there that you're not wearing the mask to protect you, you're wearing the mask to protect everyone else. I posted yesterday something to do with masks that said if you don't like wearing the mask, you're gonna hate the ventilator.”
Also, on the panel, Park City Fire Chief Paul Hewitt explained the policies they put in place for personnel, the equipment they use, and the fire station cleaning protocols. His team uses masks that are part of their uniform and they have disinfecting and distancing procedures in place. He says they’re disinfecting vehicles every time they roll out of the station. Hewitt says if people need help, don’t be afraid to call.
“And then our firefighters have responded on quite a few positive cases of people with COVID. They've seen everything from those that are very cooperative to those that are not so cooperative, that are coughing in the open air. They’re belligerent and so yeah, our responses had to change a little bit. We’ve tested all of our fire fighters. They all showed up negative. We won't be a vector, so don't be worried, don't be afraid to call us. We are there. We do have seven staffed fire stations and we're here, ready to respond in a very safe way.”
City Council Member Max Doilney hosted the panel and wrapped up the hour saying:
“You can just imagine that if you're wearing a mask or you see somebody wearing a mask, imagine that they’re smiling at you because it is truly an act of kindness to wear a mask in public.”
Next Friday Park City Council will host a round table discussion with Senator Mitt Romney and US Representative Ben McAdams They’ll discuss the Federal response to the COVID-19 pandemic.