The Cullman Times on wearing masks correctly:

The governor’s mandate for Alabamians to don masks in public spaces in order to rein in community spread of COVID-19 was the right call to make. For students and teachers to get back in the classrooms, for workers to get back to work, for us to get back to some sense of normal, we’ve got to stop the spread of this virus.

That means social distancing, hand washing, sanitizing work spaces and classrooms and wearing masks — and wearing them the right way.

The science on the masks is clear; numerous studies have shown the effectiveness of cloth coverings in reducing the spread of the virus. The University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation studied the mask studies from around the world and reanalyzed the data used in them, and concluded that if 95% of the population wore cloth masks, transmission of the disease would be reduced by at least 30%. The infected group then spreads it to 30% fewer people and so on, and so on, reducing the number of people infected each time. Eventually, you go from hundreds infected to handfuls of infection.

We’ve seen evidence of that here in Alabama. Montgomery instituted a mask order and saw the case rate cut in half in one month.

Masks help filter out respiratory droplets that carry the virus, but only if they’re worn correctly. We’ve all seen it: masks worn under chins, not covering the nose or just dangling from an ear strap. If the wearer is some distance from other people, these variations aren’t an issue. However, when in group settings, they do little to protect other people in the group.

The Alabama Department of Public Health has started an information campaign to show people the right way to wear a mask. It may sound silly, but then think of all the people you’ve seen who apparently haven’t figured out how to wear a belt, if their sagging pants are anything to go by.

Masks aren’t a magic wand; we still have to exercise common sense when it comes to gatherings and washing hands. But they are one tool in our tool box that will help get us back to our everyday activities.

Cullman Regional has noted that the spread of the virus is coming from the community; it is not tied to one specific location. As a community, we all need to do our part to stop it.

Everyone wants children to be able to go back to school safely at the start of the school year. The schools are putting plans in place in an effort to make that happen. But as University of Alabama System Chancellor Fess St. John noted in his comments to President Trump recently, keeping schools open “is going to be the hardest part.”

It is not the sole responsibility of the administrators, the teachers, school staff and parents to make that happen. We all have a responsibility as members of this community to create a safe environment outside the schools.

Medical experts have provided us with the game plan for doing this. Wash your hands. Stay home if you’re sick. When you are in a public space, particularly an indoor space where you can’t social distance, wear a mask and pull it up over your nose and mouth.

If for no other reason, do it for the kids.

The Times-News on increasing participation in local elections:

Qualifying for local elections ended last week, and on Aug. 25 Chambers County residents will go to the polls to elect new officials in 24 seats between LaFayette, Lane and Valley.

Unfortunately, most of these races are uncontested, meaning voters won’t have a chance to have a say in who gets elected.

Don’t get us wrong, as we don’t mean that as any sweeping judgment on the job incumbents are doing.

But the truth is, we see posts floating around social media and, in our comments, questioning various issues throughout the county frequently.

That doesn’t necessarily mean anything is being done wrong, but it does show that people have questions about why decisions are made the way they are. We think it would serve the community better to hear more voices, with possible new ideas to move our community forward.

Contested elections give the public choices and force candidates to counter ideas that their opponents push forward. They prevent apathy, where a candidate can just sit still, do nothing and continue getting reelected.

We understand that public service requires a tremendous time commitment and that largely plays a role in the lack of participation. This lack of participation also lends its hands to the lack of voter turnout which is a problem everywhere.

You could make a good argument that the lack of candidates speaks to the way most in our community feel about the progress made in Chambers County over the last four years. Maybe the majority of people are happy with the way things are. If that’s the case, then great.

We applaud all of the candidates in this upcoming election, incumbents included, who took the courageous step to run for public office again.

We just wish there were more of them.

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