“You’re still wearing that thing?”

Someone asked me that question a while back about my mask.

To these comments, I always respond: “Oh, you know, I just don’t want to kill anyone’s grandma!”

Or one of my own grandmothers.

Sometimes people laugh and agree, sometimes people blurt out an excuse as to why they won’t wear a mask in public.

The latter seems to be more common lately.

I offer this column in hopes at least someone is listening. There are too many echo chambers in today’s society, for which we can partially thank social media giants like Facebook and Twitter for creating.

But it’s also our own fault for being incredibly short-sided.

I understand how easy it is to read two sentences into an article and quit because it’s too frustrating to continue. If we truly listened to one another with open minds, though, it would make this world a lot easier to live in. One of the first things you’ll learn in a speech class is how to formulate your argument, and that includes knowing the other side’s points like the back of your hand.

Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer, right?

Every time I speak with my mother about controversial issues, I let her talk before casting my own political opinions. Sometimes she’ll say something I find intriguing, so instead of slandering her in the middle of our living room, I do my own research later.

Sometimes, I’m surprised. Mom has been important in developing my political affiliations in the past several years because she challenges me, especially when I don’t want to be challenged.

When is the last time someone challenged you?

I tend to be the type who hates putting herself out there. Perhaps that’s why this column is good for me. And, if there’s one thing I will take a “political” stance about, it’s coronavirus preventative measures.

Here’s that controversial belief of mine: safety protocol should not be considered political.

A year ago, I would never have believed that statement to be debated.

My own mother is one of the most conservative-minded individuals I know, and yet even she knows to social distance and wear a mask in public. Perhaps we can attribute this to the fact she works in healthcare and sees what the virus can do.

Likewise, I haven’t seen Americans — at least in recent years — boycotting businesses or the government because of the “no shirt, no shoes, no service” policy. Yet we add masks to that policy, and people go wild.

Following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines should be common decency during a pandemic that has claimed more than 250,000 American lives.

How does one fabricate an illness?

Yes, I’m well aware of the argument that we aren’t talking about the many Americans who have survived COVID-19. But that’s not the point.

To those individuals arguing that it’s an illusion, I offer this counterpoint: if someone hands you a piece of pie and tells you a percentage of people have possibly gotten sick from it (or died), do you still eat the pie?

I hope you wouldn’t.

Maybe you believe that thought process is cowardly. “We can’t live our lives in fear.” And I agree to a certain extent, but this isn’t about just you and one piece of pie.

It’s about thousands of high-risk individuals across the United States, including in Jay County, who could catch the sickness from others indulging in that pie every day.

As someone who was quarantined following a close encounter with a coronavirus-positive friend, I can tell you it is not worth it.

Foregoing the mask and social distancing was not worth the sick feeling I nursed in my stomach for days when I realized how many of my family, friends, coworkers and surrounding community members I could’ve infected.

According to United States Census Bureau data from 2019, approximately 16% of Americans are ages 65 or older (or about 52,700 individuals). That’s 16% of the population — not including younger people at high risk — who could very well die because someone didn’t exercise caution.

Like any newborn virus, COVID-19 is growing and adapting to us. The death rate will only get worse the longer it manifests in our systems. To give it an easily accessible breeding ground is foolish.

I understand that I’m likely screaming into the void. It seems we all have our own unbending opinions on the matter.

Thinking about my close family or friends having the illness and dying scares me, sure, but thinking about spreading that virus to them myself shakes me to the core.

I don’t want to be the reason my grandmothers die.

And I don’t to kill anyone else’s grandma, either.

Wear a mask and social distance as best you can this holiday season. It’s the least you can do.