To don or not to don. That is the question.

The debate over wearing of masks is heating up across the country. As we move deeper into the throes of the COVID-19 pandemic, the only thing that has become clear is that there is no clear answer to this question ... or is there?

Last week during the first televised Coronavirus Task Force press briefing held in some time, Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told the country, "Wear face masks in public."

During that same press briefing, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, continued to urge the country to wear face coverings while social distancing.

In a June 18 news release, California Gov. Gavin Newsom wrote, "Simply put, we are seeing too many people with faces uncovered — putting at risk the real progress we have made in fighting the disease."

The argument, however, is whether face masks are an effective form of protection from the coronavirus.

Seeking the public's opinion, Tehachapi News recently took a poll, asking readers if they felt comfortable going out in public barefaced or if they preferred the protection of a mask.

As of Sunday, 38.8 percent of our readers responded that they absolutely wear a mask every time they go in public; 26.2 percent said they refuse to wear a mask in public; and 34.9 percent said it depends on the situation.

"I feel like the masks not only keeps everybody's germ off of you, but it keeps your germs to yourself. We all need to be mindful and respectful of others. I know none of us like to wear them, but we must do our part to get this pandemic over with," said Mindy Martindale, of Tehachapi, who spent part of her time in quarantine making masks for others.

Annette Kirby, of Tehachapi, said she wears a mask, not so much to protect herself, but to protect others.

"I wear a mask because I would have no idea if I was an asymptomatic COVID-19 carrier. Do I like it? Not especially. Am I going to continue to care about the health of my community? Yes," Kirby wrote on the Facebook poll.

Kathy Fong, of Tehachapi, however, said she does not wear a mask.

"I do not wear a mask because we've been told time and time again that unless it's a certain type of mask, it's ineffective, especially the types of masks that everyone is wearing, and it's potentially hazardous to the wearer. However, if someone else feels safer and wants to wear one, it's their choice. Unfortunately, mask wearers don't seem to want to give me the same consideration when I choose not to wear one," Fong wrote on the Facebook poll.

Some readers responded by saying that they wear a mask because they possess a co-morbidity.

"I have lung damage from valley fever, so yes, I wear one every time I shop for essentials. I get enough eye rolling by maskless women (and men) when I am trying to practice social distancing at Home Depot and Albertsons," wrote Jean Wilson, of Tehachapi, in an email.

Other readers responded that they don't wear a mask because they have an underlying medical condition.

"I'm asthmatic and so is one of my daughters. In Macy's, a worker actually stopped her from entering. She showed the worker her inhaler to prove her medical condition... there are exemptions," wrote Nikki Rushing, of Walker Basin, on the Facebook poll.

Peter Purisima, of Bakersfield, said he and his son wear face masks in public; however he questioned why some stores don't enforce their own policy to enforce the wearing of masks.

"Stores have signs that state it is required by LAW, but don't enforce anything. If it's LAW, why aren't we seeing law abiding citizens? Or are we picking and choosing which laws seem fair to follow," Purisima wrote on the Facebook poll.

Marty Pay, of Tehachapi, said it depends on the circumstances whether he chooses to don a mask.

"When I'm riding my bike, I'm not going to wear a face mask... there is no point to it. If I'm at the bank or something, I only do it if it is necessary or if there is a lot of people," said Pay.

Local health coach and registered nurse Mandy Ferrell said she chooses to wear a face mask whenever she enters a store that requires it. However, she questioned the science behind it.

"I do not wear a mask if it is not required, but I do honor the six-foot social distancing. For me, a surgical mask is not going to protect me from COVID. An N95 mask is what is required.... Your material mask or surgical mask is not going to protect you from breathing in COVID," said Ferrell.

Sharron Letson, of Tehachapi, emailed her response to Tehachapi News, stating that scientists and health experts have reported that data shows wearing a face covering does slow the spread of COVID-19.

"Wearing the mask is more to protect others than it is to protect yourself. You may be healthy and not even exhibit symptoms if you have COVID-19, but you can carry it to others, perhaps a parent or a grandparent, who might suffer terrible pain and death. If, by taking the simple step of wearing a mask, you could save a life, why wouldn’t you? It is not expensive. It is not painful," wrote Letson.

So what does this all mean?

Today, the wearing of face masks appears to be a personal decision, as it's not clear that Newsom's direction is being enforced.

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