Roy Exum: It's Good Manners, Mask!

Exactly two weeks ago there were huge headlines that face masks would be mandatory at Walmart, CVS, Home Depot and Lowe’s, just to mention a few of America’s top retailers. But over the weekend quite nearly every “big box” store crossed mandatory off their signs. Each of the giants found enforcing face masks is “too dangerous” and that face masks are not part of any business model.

Numerous incidents have included a Walmart shopper drawing a gun on a cheeky fellow customer, an irate women at a Target store in Arizona who spit all over the counter, a surly American public that is now enraged that “no shop clerk can tell me what to,” and, of course, the Verizon customer who was so mad she squatted in the showroom and peed on the floor.

Several weeks ago the Chattanooga City Council, quite pompously, declared racism in Chattanooga as a “public health crisis” but racism can, in no way, match the vitriolic hatred for authority, political party and a terrible lack of respect that today permeates throughout the United States.

In a well-written story that just appeared on the medical website,, a board-certified female physician wondered, “Where on earth have everyone’s manners gone?”

The doctor, Giannina L. Garces-Ambrossi Muncey MD (no, I have no idea how she signs a prescription but I’m betting it stretches under her arm in a lab coat!) Here the doctor mourns the lack of civility, an absence of respect for others, and this is the real reason I mask; to protect other people if I am unknowingly a carrier of this virus. Heed her words:

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By  Giannina L. Garces-Ambrossi Muncey MD. (This article appeared on July 25th on the website, The website has become a leading medical resource on the Internet where medical professionals share their stories. It published under auspices of and marvelously links professionals to reporters, universities, and the sprawling medical community in our country every day.)

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There comes a day in every woman’s life when she must wonder: Where on earth have everyone’s manners gone?

This phase of life, I once believed, was the same phase when I would shout things like: “You kids get off my lawn!” and so on.

Is it my own grand-millennial style, wherein I scour vintage Etsy finds (and insist on living in a 100-year-old house), that awakens my inner Emily Post: sniffling, subtly raising a groomed eyebrow over the heathen ways of our community? Or is it that I’m a Harvard-trained board-certified specialist physician, with years of epidemiological training at the Johns Hopkins University?

Because the lack of manners I’m bemoaning is the horrifically low (proper) face mask usage in the greater Tampa Bay Area.

This combined with the entitlement of yelling, accosting, and generally harassing either the mask-wearer or the mask-enforcer, is truly beneath the dignity of anyone over the age of 3. (Three year old’s, from my closeup observations, somehow manage to retain their dignity while having a completely unreasonable tantrum. It’s either the baby fat or the elfin voice, perhaps some combination of the two.)

Certainly, there are science-deniers out there, but The Lancet (the so-good-you-hate-anyone-who-publishes-there international medical journal) recently released a comprehensive, systematic review of mask-wearing (in combination with the two other staples of pandemics: physical distance and eye protection). It showed a protective benefit in the community.

Was this a perfect scientific study? No. Then again, I’ve yet to see the perfect study that shows parachutes are useful for skydiving. I’ve also yet to see any “science-deniers” remain so when they show up in my ICU, desperately hoping to breathe, with fever raging through their fuzzy brains, and infection crushing the very structure from their bones.

I’ve yet to see anyone call on personal freedom philosophies when their mother, the person who kissed your boo-boos away, the person who snuggled you tight when the monsters were in the closet, the person who gave up every selfish concept to give you a better life – when those boo-boo-soothing lips turn ashy gray from lack of oxygen, when those snuggling arms flop lifelessly from muscle weakness, when those unselfish eyes roll back in the head from seizures.

I’ve yet to see anyone call on anything except “please, please help my mommy – please, do anything doctor, everything. No matter what it takes.”

No matter what it takes.

All it takes for us to save someone else’s life nowadays is manners. Manners enough to consider that their life, all life, is worthy of respect. By covering your mouth and nose with a bit of cloth: you are saying, “I respect you.”

I am not a politician, and I don’t really understand what “woke” even means— I’m just a doctor, and a mom trying to raise a little boy to have good manners (largely to show his mama raised him right).

But even the original proponent of “freedom of self” himself, John Stuart Mill, said of personal freedom: “The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others.”

So, whether you call it old-fashioned manners, Good Samaritan lifesaving, or philosophical largesse: I hope I can’t really hear you that well.

I hope, however you call it: Your mask muffles your speech a bit— which is all in good taste.

— The Author is Giannina L. Garces-Ambrossi Muncey, who is a critical care physician in Jupiter, Fla.

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Let me make this really simple for you by presenting what’s called ‘the urine test:’

* — If we all run around completely naked, and somebody pees on you, you get wet right away.

* — If you are wearing pants, some pee will still get through – but not as much – so you are better protected.

* — If the guy who pees is also wearing pants, the pee stays with him and you don’t get wet. That’s the best protection.

Yes, it is that simple.

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