/The face mask police

The face mask police

By Chad Ingram

Working in media during the COVID-19 pandemic has meant, in large part, days dominated by the subject of the coronavirus for nearly eight months now.

That is true whether you’re a national news anchor or a community newspaper reporter. The pandemic is the story across the globe. It’s all-encompassing and never-ending. It touches every aspect of our lives, and will continue to for quite some time.

With all the many things there are to write about when it comes to the virus, tattling on people, whether they be politicians or otherwise, for not wearing or seemingly not wearing face masks when they are supposed to be, is a stupid and petty waste of time.

On the national front, there was one such story this week, originating from a photo of federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu sitting in Pearson Airport without a mask on. Hajdu is sitting by herself beside her suitcase, an open paper bag nearby, and has said she only removes her mask to eat or drink in such places, where mandatory mask requirements are in place.

The story was very similar to one about then-Conservative leader Andrew Scheer that was published in July, also stemming from a photo taken at Pearson, which showed Scheer without a face mask. He was also by himself in the airport, also eating at the time.

Is this where we’re at? Raging about photos of politicians trying to eat a sad, solitary airport sandwich before catching their flight? This in no way serves the greater good, and serving the greater good is supposed to be a baseline requirement for any news story.

Locally, back near the beginning of the pandemic, I received a number of calls and messages at the Times office from residents who were upset, either that businesses did not have what they considered to be adequate protocols in place, that employees at X, Y or Z place were not wearing masks (they were not yet mandatory), etc.

My response to each of those messages was if the resident felt uncomfortable, then they should voice their concerns to the business owner, the health unit, or avoid that business altogether. It’s not the place of the paper to embark on some kind of naming and shaming campaign. This time is stressful and difficult enough for us all without media outlets turning into the face mask police, nitpicking at any perceived violation of a public health regulation.

Real, substantive violations will be met with real consequences, as with the case of a Minden business charged under provincial legislation last month. 

As for politicians at airports, let them have their sandwiches and eat them, too.