Mask season is almost upon us



By Bruce Corcoran

Wow, I have learned a few things about Chatham-Kent citizens in recent weeks and days. 

Sadly, not all of the new knowledge is positive.

Folks, way too many people think that having a social media account gives them the right to bully others if they have a difference of opinion. 

Look at the mask issue. Pro maskers hating on anti maskers, anti maskers spewing vitriol at pro maskers. There seemed to be no middle ground. 

Heck, I posted a column last week about my thoughts on wearing a mask, saying I carry one with me, but certainly did not always wear one. Because I posted a photo of me wearing a mask, which I opted to repost with this column, I was vilified by some commenters. I wonder how many actually read the column to see I was in the middle on the issue.

Even our medical officer of health said masks can help prevent a person who has COVID from possibly spreading it to others. He also told The Voice he wears a mask at times when out in public.

But Dr. David Colby also said he believed a mandatory mask order would do more harm than good, as he feared people would don a mask and stop with social distancing and regular hand washing. In some instances, he will no doubt be right, but in others, such as with me, he is quite wrong.

As I wrote last week, when I put on a mask, I am more aware of the reality we face today. I seek to remain socially distanced, probably more so than if I didn’t have a mask on. The fabric reminds me every time I breathe.

Colby discussed what he thought of in terms of how wearing a mask would lead people to act.

That’s all.

What Colby did not talk about is anything about reduced oxygen levels, increased risk of infections for other ailments, Bill Gates trying to kill off 15 per cent of the population, and a host of other wild comments that popped up on our social media pages. 

I’ve seen YouTube videos that purportedly show a reduction of oxygen behind a mask, and people therefore conclude that anyone with a mask on would suffer reduced oxygen levels. I don’t care if you use a gas meter. When someone exhales, of course the carbon dioxide levels spike and oxygen levels will plummet. Your body has pulled oxygen from your inhaled breath, and replaced it with carbon dioxide.

Lower levels of oxygen are automatic as a result.

The next intake of breath delivers the same amount of oxygen as what is right in front of you.

What if someone were to hook up a pulse oximeter, a device that measures your pulse as well as the oxygen level in your blood? Next, they experiment and take readings without a mask, and then with a mask on, in the same surrounding conditions. It would be interesting to see the results. Oh, wait, folks have done that, and the results are that oxygen levels aren’t impacted.

I realize there are people who don a mask and a rising panic takes place. They can feel claustrophobic, or that they aren’t able to breathe properly. To me, that would qualify as a mental health exemption. The mask is having a negative impact on an individual.

Others of us have respiratory problems and cannot wear a mask for medical reasons, and they will be exempt. I could qualify based on the fact I have asthma, but the reality is I can breathe through a mask, so I don’t plan on using that as a reason to not wear a mask.

On Friday, masks become mandatory. It should lead to a decrease in potential exposure. 

Some people are unable to wear a mask. Others will choose not to, as they feel their rights are being violated by being mandated to use a mask. Of course, they’ll click on their seatbelts for the drives to and from the store, and if they get pulled over by a RIDE spot check, they’ll have no problem with those infringements on their rights, but they take issue with masks as a safety precaution.

I encourage everyone who can wear a mask to please do so. For what it’s worth, that I won’t be judging anyone who does not have a mask on (unless they behave like a tool). I will seek a wider berth around them, for their sake and mine.
And for you anti-maskers, please don’t berate store staff. The policy is a municipal one. 

Also, for pro maskers, remember, if you see a cashier behind plexiglass, they don’t have to wear a mask, as the barrier does a better job.

One final comment on municipal councillors who took issue with being placed in a position Monday night to make a decision on whether to mask or not to mask. You are correct when you say you are not medical experts and feel unqualified to make such a decision. 

That’s the dilemma of being a politician. You are forever tasked with making decisions for which you are not truly qualified.

Fixing a bridge. Are you a civil engineer?

Addressing shoreline erosion. Are you a climatologist?

Adding bicycle lanes. If you build them, are you sure “they” will come, or are you just altering the ambience of a venerable avenue in Chatham with fingers crossed? Are you an urban planner?

Does a federal politician know military strategies when sending troops into harm’s way? Or anything about shipbuilding when deciding which firm builds military vessels for our navy?


In these instances, as with the case with masks, the politicians have expert advice on which to rely. Sometimes they take it, sometimes they bow to public pressure.
The extremely difficult decisions come when the expert advice may not be correct. Or in this case, it might be right in some ways and wrong in others. And that, dear councillors, is why you are paid to do that job. Oh, and to deal with e-mails and online comments that might keep you up at night.

Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.


  1. Where exactly, on the Ontario map, is the “Kawartha Lakes region”? I’m guessing they are somewhere between Peterborough and Ottawas but not exactly sure?
    Seeing as Bruce worked there, I was wondering for what publication he was employed there?
    Sorry if I didn’t spell “Kawartha” right!

    • Kawartha, correct. The City of Kawartha Lakes is an amalgamated municipality, similar to Chatham-Kent, in that it is a mix of rural and urban spaces. Lindsay is the highest population centre in the municipality. It’s about 40 minutes west of Peterborough and 90 minutes northeast of Toronto.
      But the Kawartha Lakes encompass lakes essentially from southwest of Peterborough to east of Lake Simcoe. Beautiful small lake district, really.


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