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Opinion: We can, and should, be 'hALL in' to prevent spread of COVID-19
1003PLEDGE
A new community initiative including local governments, businesses and nonprofits asks Hall residents and businesses to pledge to take precautions against COVID-19, a move initiative partners say is less divisive than a mask mandate. The Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce hosted a Zoom call on the topic on Friday, Oct. 2, 2020.

Are you hALL IN for the fight against COVID-19? If not, you should be.

A coalition of community leadership on Friday unveiled a new initiative intended to remind everyone of the need to remain vigilant in fighting against the coronavirus that has run rampant throughout much of the world for the past 10 months.

The hope is that everyone will be “hALL IN,” by voluntarily agreeing to wear masks in public spaces to reduce the likelihood of spreading the disease. The need to do so is particularly urgent as we head into the normal flu season, which will further increase the burden on health care providers.

This is not a mask mandate, nor is it a government initiative. It is a voluntary call to action and a plea for personal responsibility, the result of a month of work by a coalition of leaders that includes city, county and state officials, experts in the field of health care, business community leadership and others.

Kudos to them for asking the community to step up, and providing a way for it to do so.

The ongoing mantra for reducing the number of COVID-19 cases is to follow the “three Ws” – wear a mask, watch your distance and wash your hands. At the core of the hALL In effort is a focus on the need to wear a mask.

Times editorial board

Staff members

  • Norman Baggs, general manager

  • Shannon Casas, editor in chief

Community members

  • Cheryl Brown

  • David George

  • Mandy Harris

  • Brent Hoffman

  • J.C. Smith

  • Tom Vivelo

County administrator Jock Connell, in addressing the group gathered via Zoom on Friday, noted that the coalition felt it was important not to come forth with a recommendation for a government enforced mask mandate. Masks, he correctly noted, are “highly political,” and the group’s hope was that it could avoid the politics involved in a mandate by instead encouraging personal responsibility in a broad countywide effort.

Connell said the group wanted a “community solution” to a “community problem.”

The disease is still very much a problem. While the numbers are definitely improving, the need for preventative action still is very real. Two factors worth noting:

  • Georgia is no longer in the “red zone,” indicating extremely high numbers of cases on a comparative basis to other states, but Hall County is “red” relative to other counties.

  • The local hospital is already at 90% of bed capacity, and we are just starting into the normal flu season.

You’ll be hearing a lot about hALL In in the next few days. A website, www.wearehallin.com, has been established to provide information about the initiative. There, you will be asked to electronically sign a pledge to be diligent in wearing masks when around others. Many businesses and organizations have already signed on to encourage masks to be worn.

While over the course of the past several months some opinions on the importance of masks in the fight against the disease may have changed along with available data, most within the medical community, and certainly those involved in the local hospital system, are convinced that mouth and nose coverings worn routinely can and do slow the spread of the virus.

Until a vaccine exists, the best way to combat the virus is to slow its spread. A vital component of doing that is to wear a mask when dealing with others. It’s a health issue, not a political issue. Being asked to voluntarily wear a mask does not infringe upon anyone’s personal freedoms; those who insist upon challenging the right of private businesses to ask that a mask be worn have no logical basis for their specious arguments.

A recurring word throughout the hALL IN launch Friday was “community.” As a community we can choose to act responsibly in slowing the disease and lessening its impact here, where we live. As individuals we can do our part to help our community, so that all are better served. By doing our part, we can help our neighbors, our families, our friends and ourselves.

It’s not that complicated.

Watch your distance. Wash your hands. Wear a mask. Get a flu shot. Avoid big crowds. Forget the political posturing and social media grandstanding and become part of the solution rather than adding to the problem.

Why would you not?

It was purely a matter of coincidence that Friday’s launch of the local mask initiative came on the same day that the nation learned that the president and first lady had tested positive for the virus, but that fact alone should make the need for continued vigilance and action all the more obvious.

The gains in the fight against COVID-19 seen in recent weeks can disappear in a matter of days if another spike occurs. Working together we can stop that from happening.

We encourage you to visit the hALL IN website, join The Times in having signed  the mask pledge, learn more about local efforts to combat the disease, and commit to being focused on helping others remain healthy rather than fighting imaginary political battles or endangering others out of misguided efforts to prove your independence from the crowd.

We all need to be hALL In.

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