I found out this week that a long-time family friend -- and one of my elementary school teachers at that -- recently had COVID-19.

Apparently, several others in her family did as well. She's been one of those on social media who's been very vocal regarding COVID-19 and how she would not be wearing a mask. So, naturally, my initial reaction when I found out she had it was "Ha! Serves you right!"

I had to check myself, though. COVID-19 has really been tearing through my old community back home in Illinois. Several families from my old church (where my parents still attend) have caught the virus, and one long-time member just passed away (though his death is up for debate; he died of a heart attack before his COVID-19 test result came back positive). Regardless, while my closest circle of friends and family and I have so far been safe from the novel coronavirus, I've watched it slowly but surely get closer.

I, for my part, have been doing what I can to minimize the risk of catching or spreading it -- washing my hands, wiping down work and living spaces with Clorox Wipes and wearing a face mask when I go out. To be entirely candid, I was initially reluctant to wearing a face mask. It wasn't even a matter of rights to me; it was just the inconvenience of it. But as this strange season has worn on, I've begun to embrace the rules and precautions. I've recognized that COVID-19 is unpolitical -- that is, unbiased of political party or standing. I've recognized my own selfishness in being unwilling to wear a mask because of my own inconvenience. I've recognized that the surest way of ending COVID-19 is to work together and take the safest route of precautions possible.

I read recently that America could end the current pandemic in four to six weeks if everyone would just wear a face mask. I'm not here to defend that with certainty, but just think -- a light at the end of the tunnel! Finally, we could leave behind the fears and uncertainties and shutdowns and quarantines and unemployment and hospitalizations and rising stats and numbers of the past four, long months, and all we have to do is wear a mask! I can't help but wonder -- would that really be such an inconvenience? But of course, this isn't about just convenience -- it's about rights and politics and stubborn selfishness.

Here are some of the comments Central Minnesotans have left on our sister station WJON's Facebook page regarding St. Cloud's City Council's upcoming vote on mandating face masks in public:

"Just wait till you see half the stores close because of them taking our rights away."

"Nope! I am NOT an evil anarchist and am NO LONGER a dem so I don’t need a mask. IF YOU are so scared STAY HOME! I prefer to have a choice and as an ADULT will make MY OWN."

"Once you give up your freedoms you will not be getting them back."

"Why? They are completely and totally worthless. Nobody believes anything about Covid 19 anymore. Too much incompetence and lying. Go scam someone else."

"This virus will be gone Nov 4th. Won’t wear mask, Shoo some place else."

As August 1 approaches, I'm reminded of the hands-free law that went into effect in Minnesota nearly one year ago which required drivers to be hands-free at all times. While certainly an inconvenience to those of us guilty of distracted driving, I don't recall an uproar from Minnesotans crying "They're taking away our rights!" or "It doesn't work!" On the contrary, acording to a number of sources, all instances of enforced hands-free driving around the country have resulted in fewer deaths and accidents on roads. Coincidentally, the more I've grown accustomed to keeping my phone down while driving, the more I've become aware of those guilty of using their phones while they drive.

It doesn't seem like such a far stretch to me to compare Minnesota going hands-free to enforcing face masks for a period of time. In the several months that I've been wearing my mask in public I've still been able to: grocery shop, go out to eat, go out for drinks, visit friends, hike, kayak, travel, take my car in for service, visit the appliance store for new parts,and -- most recently -- attend church. While COVID-19 has certainly affected my life in ways, nothing has been ruined or taken away from me because of wearing a mask; on the contrary, I've been allowed to do things because I wear a mask, which I realize is exactly what people are upset about.

What if we could eradicate or at least significantly slow the spread of COVID-19 in four to six weeks by each of us wearing a mask? What if we could prevent our friends, family or even strangers from passing away because we each wore a mask? What if we could do all the things we're doing now with a mask in four to six weeks without a mask just by wearing one now?

If that's too much to ask, maybe you should stay home, not me.

- Adam Rozanas

(This article expresses the views and opinions of the author alone and not those of Townsquare Media)

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