Columns/Opinion, MaryWade Triplett

Are you one of the 1,000 people who got free COVID-19 testing two weeks ago in Monongalia County, all of whom received negative results?

And, what now?

It feels great to get a negative test. I have been tested and was happy to learn that my sneezing and sinus activity can be chalked up to seasonal allergies.

However, I also know that testing negative might give people a false sense of security. When Monongalia County Health Department was promoting the free testing, we asked individuals to wear masks in public and to stay at home until they received their results.

We knew the latter might have been difficult for some, but that is what we implore symptomatic individuals to do when they get tested. As it turned out, only two symptomatic people showed up for the free Monongalia County testing.

I got a phone call from a woman who wanted to know if she could walk her dog with a mask on after she got tested and before she got the results. I asked her if she was symptomatic. She wasn’t so I said walking her dog would be fine. And then she mentioned, “And wear a mask until I get the results?”

And that is where I had to be the bad guy. “Well, no, we are recommending wearing a mask whenever you go out into public. Even if you test negative for COVID-19, it doesn’t mean that you are immune from getting it in the future.”

Dr. Lee B. Smith, MCHD’s executive director and county health officer, has strongly urged residents to wear masks in public. There are places in other states where they are mandated, but not in West Virginia, because enforcing such a measure can be difficult.

Plus, Mountaineers are always free, right? But, when I hear stories about West Virginians, it’s often about how kind they are and how they will go out of their way to help a stranger.

And that’s what wearing a mask is. Your mask helps protect others; when they wear masks, it protects you.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also is on board with individuals wearing masks to lessen the spread of COVID-19. According to information on the CDC website:

“COVID-19 spreads mainly from person to person through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. Studies and evidence on infection control report that these droplets usually travel around 6 feet.”

Furthermore, the CDC notes, whether masks be of the homemade cloth variety or the type health professionals wear, they “may slow the spread of the virus and help people who may have the virus and do not know it from transmitting it to others.”

That’s because not everyone who tests positive for COVID-19 develops symptoms. And then there are others who might shed the virus before they know they have the illness.

So as more businesses open up and as we hope for a future that includes more activities we enjoy, wearing a mask, in conjunction with social distancing and frequent and thorough hand washing, are great ways to avoid getting COVID-19 and will help put us on the track to whatever the new normal will be.

I’ve seen some people express that wearing a mask is tantamount to living in fear. I want to ask them, does wearing a seatbelt mean you are living in fear? Or a helmet if you ride a bicycle or motorcycle? Or sunscreen?

Wearing a mask is not a sign of weakness or a nod to fear. It’s just a sensible practice everyone can do to help out their fellow community members as well as themselves.

Some fellow West Virginians recently helped MCHD in a mask campaign that we have run on our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages since May 18.

Folks, including coaches Bob Huggins, Neal Brown and Nikki Izzo-Brown, Dr. Clay Marsh and WVU President E. Gordon Gee; U.S. Sens. Joe Manchin and Shelley Moore Capito, submitted photos of themselves wearing a mask as well as a quote on why it’s important.

Some of the messages are short and sweet and remind us that every day is not only a great one to be a Mountaineer, but also how the future will be better if fans get to see football, basketball and soccer in the upcoming season. Such as Izzo-Brown’s “Wear your mask so we can kick COVID-19.”

And Shane Lyons’ statement: “Your safety is our priority. Let’s go, Mountaineers!”

Contact Mary Wade Triplett at 304-598-5152 or at