I am a local business owner and army veteran and the past two months have not been easy personally or for business: I don’t want to distance, I like being around people, I want to go to the gym, I like freedom, and I want the economy to get back on track.
Despite that, for me, and for those who don’t want to risk their livelihoods or health, this will be a difficult reopening ... and I still personally understand the fears of forced emergency measures.
I’ve seen the protests, I’ve heard the comments at the store from people telling me “we’re all going to live” because I had a mask on and tried to keep my space. I get take out and cringe at the people who lean in too close, customers who make a point to make me uncomfortable by standing right next to me, and the sick people still working despite the order.
At our business, our clients generally understand the precautions we’re taking. However, we’ve had some people laugh or make jokes about the uselessness and have had others who didn’t want to wear masks or took issue with the precautions.
Much of my clientele is elderly, we serve many people in extremely vulnerable conditions, and I take that responsibility seriously. I also take my business seriously, and fear what would occur if I was unable to do anything for 14 or more days if I were to get sick.
I moved to Arizona in 2010 after serving eight years as an enlisted soldier. I deployed twice to Iraq, and in my second deployment was injured in a Humvee rollover that put me into an induced coma. I suffered a moderate brain injury, two collapsed lungs, sixteen broken bones, had pneumonia and had a blood clot.
Since then I’ve had 10 surgeries, multiple blood clots, and other complications.
In my first deployment, I was forced to work at a burn pit where we were not subject to EPA regulations and burned plastic and any other thing we could throw in... I was 19. The VA currently has a list of over 200,000 veterans they are tracking due to the exposure.
Recent studies suggest exposed veterans are at higher risk of coronavirus complications. The military has a current order in effect that anyone who contracts coronavirus will be permanently prevented from joining the military.
I was also forced to take an Anthrax vaccine (it was early in the war) and had a couple of the shots before the military was given an order to stop requiring them due to lack of testing. There are risks that we may not know about or acknowledge for years.
Thousands of veterans walking around may be at higher risk than the general public, but do not and would not know.
I currently receive my care from the Phoenix VA, where early on (prior to our shutdown order) they refused to allow anyone under the age of sixteen to enter, screened for sickness, and now require masks to be worn when on the premises. I’m not necessarily their normal client, although many veterans have many injuries they are being treated for.
My hope is that everyone will voluntarily wear a mask when they can at the store, standing outside of restaurants, in the gym, and at the movies. With proper precautions, I can foresee being able to do some of the things I want to do again. Until then, I will reduce the times I take unnecessary risks, and will not be spending as much as I did before coronavirus hit.
I don’t see that happening here in Arizona, and a lot of other people who feel similarly will reduce their spending and exposure in the same way I will. It’s not irrational or fear mongering to refuse to take unnecessary personal risks, and it’s not irrational or “communism” for businesses to require patrons to wear a mask.
Donald Trump recently publicized a visit to an Arizona Honeywell plant, making clear his belief that masks work to reduce the spread. The White House currently requires masks. When the public wears masks, those of us in small businesses who would have to close or suffer even more business loss in the event of sickness face less risk.
It’s unfortunate that businesses are currently forced to make the difficult choice between protecting their employees and loved ones, and remaining open to serving those people who refuse to take basic precautions because business has been hit hard. I will certainly lose customers for requiring precautions such as masks and distancing.
It should not be that way, we face risk by not taking protective measures. Opening the economy will be an effort in futility and won’t help the public if regular people insist on disregarding and angrily protesting recommended safety precautions.
Having served, having been forcibly vaccinated, and exposed to unnecessary risks like burn pits makes me more likely to have coronavirus complications, I won’t take that risk. It’s unfathomable to me that people merely poking holes in the concept of masks would risk those who’ve served and everyone else (including the economy) to obtain the minimal level of convenience that comes with not wearing a mask in public places.
With freedom comes responsibility. We’ll require masks and will provide them to those who don’t bring them in. I hope that others will exercise their responsibility so that I and others can begin to exercise more of our freedoms and we can begin to recover together.
Editor's Note: Steven M. Jackson is a Scottsdale resident and founder of the Steven M. Jackson Law Group.