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Out of the coronavirus pall hanging over our Montana summer, some glimmers of hope are flashing. Anecdotally at least, seems locals are beginning to get the message about wearing masks and social distancing. And Montana State University, and the University System in general, is inching closer to requiring students to wear masks when they return to campus next month.

Some local businesses are leading the way with mask requirements. Many local bars and restaurants – including most of those downtown – are requiring masks for employees interacting with the public. Some shopping venues – including Costco and the Food Co-op – require their customers to wear masks. And a task force studying the issue for the U-system is recommending students be required to wear masks in classrooms, though they stopped short of recommending the requirement campus-wide – so far.

These are all steps in the right direction. But we have a long way to go, especially as the number of cases in Gallatin County and Montana continue to climb. We won’t have a significant effect on slowing the spread of the virus until we get 80% or more of locals to wear masks in public.

Retail businesses are in a unique position to spread the practice. All are urged to require, or at least incentivize, their customers to wear the masks. Many consumers have already decided to patronize businesses that require masks and avoid those that don’t. All of us should take a cue from those discerning consumers, and businesses will quickly realize there is more profit in mandating the masks than not.

As of Friday, more than 3,200 people had signed an online petition asking Gallatin County to mandate people wear masks when in public. And the Gallatin City-County Board of Health is slated to meet Tuesday morning to consider imposing the requirement.

No one wants a government mask mandate and the rancor that will go with that. That’s what’s happening in states, counties and cities all over the nation. The only way to avoid that here is for many more of us to get wise to the benefits of wearing masks in public and practicing social distancing.

Wearing the mask is embarrassing and uncomfortable at first. But get over it. And urge friends and acquaintances to do the same. This is not a political issue. It’s about preventing serious illness and premature death.

Just do it.

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Editorial Board

  • Mark Dobie, publisher
  • Nick Ehli, managing editor
  • Bill Wilke, opinion page editor
  • Richard Broome, community member
  • Renee Gavin, community member
  • Will Swearingen, community member
  • Angie Wasia, community member

To send feedback on editorials, write to citydesk@dailychronicle.com.