Nebo District opens with young students wearing face masks to school 06

A third-grade student listens as his teacher, Madie Treanor, instructs her students at East Meadows Elementary School in Spanish Fork during the first day of school for the Nebo School District on Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2020. Isaac Hale, Daily Herald

When a family brings home a dog to join their family, there are certain rules under which that dog must abide.

Loyalty, snuggling, relieving itself outside, providing entertainment and a sense of camaraderie with its new family are a few of them. Likewise, the family provides food, shelter and, very often, takes the dog on a walk for exercise. Some dogs are sufficiently obedient that they can be walked without a leash. Let’s be real, though. Many of our beloved pets are not that disciplined.

The leash, despite its negative connotations, does offer a useful tool for thinking about the mask mandates being considered across Utah.

Is man’s best friend more or less free because of their leash?

Sure, if they weren’t family pets, they’d be free. They’d also be roaming the streets looking for trash to eat and sleeping in the gutters. Perhaps the strong among them could hunt prey in packs in the wilderness but their life expectancy would be drastically reduced. None of that sounds very free.

If our four-legged friends could reason on this level, it’s a certainty nearly all of them would choose a backyard fence, veterinary care, a warm bed and a leash to obtain exercise throughout much of the week. This beats the alternative hands down. In fact, a longer life, safety, high-quality food and consistent exercise sounds like more freedom, not less.

Drawing the obvious parallel, humans could live like we’re in the Old West but the consequences to that decision would be quite similar to our canine example. Simply stated, human beings organize themselves to incentivize outcomes they believe enhance their freedom.

Similar to having a police force, a military, food safety standards and public education, state and local governments encouraging and enforcing mask use could encourage an extension of our quality of life.

It’s not ideal, obviously. The hope is that one day we can all return to a place where N95 masks are not needed in our day-to-day lives. When that day comes, we would demand an immediate reversal of some of the ordinances being considered and implemented across the state.

Until then, it can absolutely be said that mandatory face masks in public settings where social distancing is not possible enhances our freedom. It allows us to shop, physically attend work, limit the spread of COVID-19 to vulnerable populations and maintain a sense of normalcy in our everyday lives.

Many businesses have recognized this: requiring masks to enter their locations or access their services, and requiring mask usage among their employees.

The Provo Municipal Council notwithstanding, local governments in Utah have largely abstained from requiring masks because it absolutely violates our sense of liberty. A government-required mask is not exactly a walk in the park from a practical or philosophical perspective, but it does let us walk in the park.

As of Friday, Utah County has officially reported 10,626 positive cases of COVID-19 with 46 deaths. It is a near certainty those numbers will increase as the weather cools and the general public spends more of its time indoors. There’s also a high chance those numbers will increase as students return to the university setting where viral transmission is already quite high.

We are encouraging more local governments to consider a temporary, reasonable standard for enforcing mask usage in the near term. It will benefit both the health of the public and the performance of the local economy while paving the way for a speedier end to this global pandemic.

Let’s regain a sense of normalcy and unleash an effective policy at the local level.

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