Can we control the spread of the coronavirus with masks?

For four hours, Mitchell residents on Monday night passionately and civilly debated whether our community needs a mandate on wearing masks.

Four hours -- truly amazing community participation on a much-needed discussion that impacts everyone. Luckily, the meeting started with a good reminder of civility during both the Salvation Army’s invocation prayer and from Councilman Jeff Smith.

“It seems like in this country, we’ve gotten to the point where if you don’t agree with somebody, then you dislike them or you have to take offense to it,” Smith said. “I hope we can get back to respecting the other person’s point of view and being at least to be able to agree to disagree with still being civil.”

While the mask mandate discussion got rather heated at times with opposing views, there was an underlying, centralized theme to Monday’s meeting that’s much more important. Health and wellness.

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Will mandatory face coverings ultimately help Mitchell’s coronavirus numbers decrease? We won’t ever have a definitive answer. If positive cases increase, one side will say masks don’t work, and the other will say we’re not masking up enough. It will be a never-ending battle with no winner.

But by a 5-3 margin, the council chose to enact a mandate, and here we are today hoping our city leaders made the right choice for the betterment of Mitchell and its residents collectively.

But what are you doing to help yourself? Sure, you may or may not agree with the council. The pandemic, however, has emphasized that personal health is extremely important and, because of that, we all should be considering how to improve our own wellness.

So, what are you doing to help yourself in health? It’s a fair question, especially after hearing the testimony from those who spoke Monday, whether it was about their personal, mental or their financial health.

Here are some interesting health-related points from Monday’s meeting during commentary. (This is a condensed list, and the entire meeting can be found online on YouTube). Anyone who was willing to get up and publicly speak about their situation should be commended, and the rest of us have a chance to learn from it.

  • Health starts way before a mask. “I don’t have any right to tell you to get on a treadmill or quit smoking as you do to tell me how to live my life,” the man said.

  • Health means eating better. One man changed his diet and the way he eats. “I haven’t forced my kids to do it, but we’ve encouraged it. When you force kids to do it, they rebel,” he said.

  • Mental health is important, too. One woman said she missed out on saying goodbye to a family member who died. In her job, she has taken phone calls from people considering suicide. On the same topic, another person spoke on behalf of the people who are in assisted living or retirement homes. “How are we supposed to get well if we can’t see the people we love?” she said.

  • These decisions significantly shape the business climate, which was the theme as at least a handful of business leaders spoke. The Mitchell Area Chamber also took its stance to back the mask mandate. Each business is being affected differently -- some worried about losing all of their employees to illness, others worried about losing customers who didn’t want to mask up.

We’ve all had a lot of time to think during the pandemic. A lot more free time. The four hours Monday night during the special council meeting unfortunately was centered on masks, but there was an outstanding opportunity to learn we all need to make choices to better ourselves. We shouldn’t have to go running to the doctor for a pill or some medication any time there’s something wrong. There is expert testimony that says masks help slow the spread and there is credible studies that say they don’t work.

But health and wellness is undebatable during a pandemic.

Exercise. Don’t over-eat fast food. Monitor your weight. Work to overcome your addictions. Meditate and relax. Talk to people who make you happy. Save some money for a rainy day ... (and don’t spend it until there’s an emergency).

We have no idea when this pandemic is going to go away. We don’t know when the next one is coming. And, with the passion and divide shown Monday on a mask mandate, we could debate that topic for four hours every council meeting from here to eternity.

Working toward being healthy, though, proves you are taking responsibility for yourself. That’s something we all should agree on.