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This weekend, my family and I watched, with something like grief, as thousands of Santa Barbarans and visitors strolled down the newly open State Street corridor — maskless. As the daughter of a local business owner, this cavalier attitude toward the safety of our community shocks and embarrasses me. It also gives me deep worry about the health of my loved ones as they return to work.
Small businesses have already born a horrific brunt of the COVID-19 recession and our federal government’s inability to competently manage this crisis. Many in our community, and others, have been gracious in trying to keep their favorite restaurants, bookshops, and gift stores afloat. It is tragic that all that work and worry (and money) will be for naught if residents of this city, as well as those who visit it, refuse to make the slight discomfort of wearing a mask when outside a part of their daily routine.
To walk, brazenly mask-less, into the plazas and onto the sidewalks business owners and their staff need to be safe is selfish and dangerous. To place these same business owners, and their patrons and staff, in a position of wondering if they must risk their own safety in order to maintain a livelihood reveals a callous and self-centered world view, one unburdened by fact, empathy, compassion, and awareness.
As the national death toll crests 100,000, the small act of doing what you can to protect those in our community (as well as yourself!) by wearing a mask is not only polite, it is essential (and, as of Tuesday night, was legally mandated). To refuse to do so will not only lead to more sickness and death, but will result in fear for the very storefronts that Santa Barbarans, in better times, depend on for goods, services, food, and culture.
Many small business owners have already risked financial ruin to remain open. Do not make them also risk their lives.