EDITOR, Daily News;

Following the events of the past week week, it is clear that a single COVID-19 sufferer disregarding the existing state restrictions is all that it takes to threaten an outbreak with “wide community spread.”

In light of this fact, the question naturally comes to mind: why hasn’t the Ketchikan City Council and the Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly passed ordinances mandating the wearing of facial masks?

With the premature end of most lockdowns, COVID-19 infections are once again increasing across the country, including in California, Oregon  and Washington state. A COVID-19 vaccine is nowhere on the horizon and is likely several years away, so our town will be dealing with this health threat for some time to come.  More COVID-19 cases will come here and slip through our state’s inadequate detection system — it is a simple inevitability. When that happens, it would be better for Ketchikan if there was an additional line of defense against “wide community spread” in the form of universal mask wearing.  A number of U.S. states, cities and towns have already implemented mandatory mask laws or are preparing to do so.

It’s possible our local officials are hesitant because the President and his administration have decided to make masks “controversial.” This demonizing of masks is based on the flawed belief that fear of the virus is a greater economic and social threat to the country than the virus itself. But as we saw last week, what is really undercutting all attempts to restore economic and social normalcy is the ever present threat of renewed COVID-19 outbreaks.

What will both protect and reassure people is a very consistent and public measure that will help prevent the virus from spreading throughout our community: namely, mask wearing becoming the new normal. For this to happen to the necessary degree and length, it will require the support of law.

GHERT ABBOTT

Ketchikan