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Protecting ourselves and fellow Texans

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There’s nothing patriotic about folks refusing to wear a mask in public during this pandemic. They are aiding and abetting the enemy – the COVID-19 virus that already has claimed nearly 90,000 U.S. lives and infected more than 1 million Americans.

Sensible Texans, of course, ignore the angry rants of anti-mask people who have protested in state capitals, including Austin, this spring. Some showed off guns along with U.S. flags.

A few bizarrely waved Confederate flags, as if to declare, yes, we openly support dead enemies of the United States who were soundly trounced a whopping 155 years ago.

More than a century ago, America witnessed a small anti-mask movement during the Spanish Flu epidemic, which killed more than 675,000 Americans in what was a very much smaller country in 1918 and 1919. Some of the folks railing against public safety wear-a-mask rules called themselves the Anti-Mask League.

Some Spanish Flu deaths were linked to the anti-maskers in cities like San Francisco, where deaths had died down after the summer of 1918. When the city began to reopen, the anti-mask folks crowded into public places, and Spanish Flu deaths spiked in 1919.

Science has advanced since those years, and hundreds of studies confirm the importance of wearing a mask to prevent the spread of highly contagious viruses like COVID-19. That’s why so many big Texas cities recommend (or demand) wearing a mask in most public places. Plenty of privately owned businesses in Texas won’t let you in the door without one.

One new study from American computer scientists at the University of California at Berkeley reports that future COVID-19 cases will shrink dramatically if 80 percent of Americans wear masks in public. They were aided in their work by experts in medicine, science, population studies and economics from England, Finland, Hong Kong and France.

What they have created is a computer model that shows how the virus spreads (or doesn’t) depending on how many people are wearing adequate face coverings – store bought or homemade.

These researchers are on the side of carefully opening local economies, as long as most folks (at least 80 percent) abide by rules as simple as social distancing and wearing protective face masks. Their work has attracted high marks from U.S. infectious disease experts.

You can see for yourself why wearing masks is important, thanks to what amounts to a simple online video game created by the International Computer Science Institute at UC Berkeley and lead investigator DeKai Wu. Color-coded dots represent people wearing masks and those not wearing masks. How many other dots become infected is based on how many dots you decide should wear masks.

If you want to play, do an online search using the words ICSI (for the institute), Berkeley.edu (for UC Berkeley), the name DeKai, masksim (for mask simulator) and #introtutorial (for how to play the game). Or, go directly to

https://www1.icsi.berkeley. edu/~dekai/mirror/masksim/#introtutorial.

COVID-19 kills people, and none of us are walking around with a sure cure in our pockets. But right now, we can all do something as simple as wearing a face mask in public to protect ourselves and our fellow Texans.