EDITOR, Daily News:

A local mask mandate is essential for the preservation of Ketchikan’s economy through the duration of the COVID-19 crisis.

The economic effects of an epidemic are not unlike the effects of a depression.  In an epidemic, people shelter in place and avoid human contact to prevent possible infection, which decreases consumption. In a depression, people who have lost their jobs or are at risk of losing their jobs cut back on spending and husband their resources, which means decreased consumption. Decreased consumption means further job losses, which in turn further decreases consumption. In both, private sense and self-interest results in public catastrophe. Only strong collective actions have the power to resolve such a collective problem.

Many people in Ketchikan are afraid of the virus and the town’s economy is suffering as a result. This fear is perfectly rational as the virus is highly infectious and very dangerous. In addition to the over 120,000 American dead, the disease can permanently scar the lungs and damage the brain, kidneys, liver, heart, and other internal organs.

This danger is also increasingly immediate, as COVID-19 is once again spreading across our state and putting people into the hospital. There is no reason to think that the situation will be better a few months from now. The CDC expects things to worsen further when the winter months arrive and the virus becomes stronger and more infectious.

As we saw only two weeks ago, a single COVID-19 infection has the potential to cause “wide community spread” and both panic and paralyze our town. As the state and national infection rates exponentially increase and travel remains open, more and more infected people will come to Ketchikan and the risk of infections with “wide community spread” will increase.

Given all of this, addressing the economically ruinous fears of the virus means directly addressing the very real threat the virus poses. This means decreasing the virus’s ability to spread throughout our community. Around the world, masks have been found to significantly inhibit COVID-19 transmission. The government of Washington state and the municipal government of Anchorage have both mandated masks. Ketchikan’s city and borough governments should follow their lead.  Increased safety will mean people feel safer supporting local businesses.