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A little over a month ago, in this editorial space, I wrote that managing a COVID-19 crisis does not come with a perfect playbook. I acknowledged that in difficult situations, the hallmark of leadership is analyzing the hazards, selecting the best wrong answer, and pressing ahead to gain control.

Yet, here the playbook was so obvious. The wearing of masks in public by all citizens affords a simple, cost-effective, non-invasive method for slowing the transmission and spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Now, 60 days have been wasted. Cities, counties and states are panicking as the virus resurges. A patchwork of mask-wearing requests and requirements is taking shape right before our tired eyes.

If you think rules for bars and restaurants are hard calls, just wait two more weeks until school officials start reconsidering.

I will say it again. Leadership by our elected officials must default to environmental, health and safety rule number one: Site conditions must be managed to identify and to prevent exposures to hazards which may result in serious injury or death.

Analyze for the hazard and provide appropriate personal protective equipment to limit exposure.

Forgive me for repeating myself, but the leadership vacuum cries out for common sense.

Our elected officials have mostly squandered the past four months. They should have been conducting a very simple hazard analysis based on specific site conditions and then recommending appropriate personal protective equipment (a mask) and health and hygiene behaviors (wearing a mask in public) calculated to eliminate or materially reduce COVID-19 exposures to our families, friends and neighbors. Instead, the majority of our leaders used this time to seek political advantage, while ignoring simple solutions and mitigation opportunities.

So here we are. We all have a front row seat to the side show.

Our elected leaders, belatedly, are starting to take responsible steps to prevent exposure.

Too little too late? Only time will tell — but for now, do yourself, your family, your friends and your neighbors a favor and wear a mask in public.

The common sense best wrong answer has been staring you in your unmasked face for 120 days.

Embrace it.

Contact Michael Mallen, a health, safety and environmental attorney, at mcmallen@gmail.com.

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Mike Mallen of Miller & Martin
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