As an American citizen, I could argue that my inalienable rights are being infringed upon by the “nanny state” requirement to wear a shirt and refrain from smoking cigars in most public establishments.

But that would be about as stupid as the presidential suggestion that an injection of disinfectant could clear the human body of the deadly coronavirus. Well, not that stupid.

The sight of a hairy chest might be distressful to some sensitive retail shoppers, but it would not cause them physical illness. There may be deleterious effects from long-term exposure to second-hand cigar smoke. But a puff or two is nothing compared to the potential impact of a maskless, asymptomatic COVID-19 carrier sneezing in a crowded market.

As the death toll mounts, even President Donald Trump has encouraged people to wear masks in public. As of July 23, Republican Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine issued a statewide mask mandate for indoor public settings and outdoors when 6-foot social distancing is difficult to maintain.

Yet there are those who whine like spoiled brats against the infringement upon their absurd sense of freedom to spew potentially disease-ridden vapors anywhere they damn well please.

As it is the responsibility of journalists to report facts, I found the recent story and photograph regarding mask enforcement in the Times newspapers to be appropriate.

It’s often said that “a picture is worth a thousand words.” Multiple, complex ideas can be conveyed via a photograph. As the former editor of these newspapers for 25 years and for several other publications before that, I am well aware that people see things from different perspectives.

While some law-enforcement officials have derogatorily scoffed at Gov. DeWine’s mask mandate, including the sheriffs in Butler and Darke counties, those interviewed for the Times story were more thoughtful. They acknowledged the difficulty of enforcing the mandate while emphasizing the need to educate citizens on the efficacy of mask wearing to curb the spread of the coronavirus and consequently reopen the economy.

The photo, which was taken at a recent Chagrin Falls farmers market, did not seem to me to have been specifically assigned to accompany the mask-mandate story. But it did show two unidentified men up close – one without a mask, the other with his lowered to his chin – while the vast majority of attendees in the background appeared to be following the mandate.

My perception of the photo surely was one of many.

The man with the lowered mask also had a lowered apron, which indicated to me that he was taking a break from work at the market. He appeared to be removing the cap from a bottle of water, which indicated to me that his mask was lowered out of necessity. Notably, he appeared to be at least 6 feet away from any other individuals.

The other man was pushing a bicycle and wearing a bike helmet, which indicated to me that he was out for a ride, for which no mask was necessary, before arriving at the market. There was no evidence of a mask in his possession, although there might have been one in his pocket. He also appeared to be at least 6 feet away from other individuals at the time of the photo, although that would have been difficult to maintain.

I can understand why the bicyclist would be uncomfortable with the appearance that was projected by the photo in conjunction with the story about the mask mandate.

The cold, hard fact is that hundreds of thousands of lives very well may depend on taking the mask mandate very seriously. I believe the story and the photo accurately reflected that.

Mr. Lange is the retired editor of the Times.

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