Al Alborn

Al Alborn

I’m not a very good poker player; ergo, I don’t play poker.  I do play the odds when making important personal decisions.  

Pascal’s wager comes in handy in evaluating odds.  The 17th century French philosopher Blaise Pascal offered a simple wager regarding the existence of God.  If you believe, you have nothing to lose, regardless of whether you are right or wrong. But you have everything to lose if you don’t believe and are wrong.  In other words, you may as well believe.  This time, it’s about “beating the odds” so I don’t actually meet God any sooner than I have to.

When I run the odds on masks, wearing a mask whenever I am shopping wins.  The downside strikes me as small.  I quickly got used to the routine of putting one on before I enter a store.  Other than my glasses fogging up a bit, I haven’t really experienced any issues.

The “up” side is a much bigger payoff.  I wear a mask to protect other people in the event I actually catch the virus and become an asymptomatic carrier.  Everyone has a lot to lose if I don’t wear a mask, and everyone wins if I do.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam finally came to the same conclusion.  There are still a few folks ignoring the governor’s executive order, so I could actually catch COVID-19 even if I am wearing a mask.  That means that for up to 14 days, I could be wandering around as an asymptomatic carrier.  

A mask reduces the risk of passing on COVID-19 to unsuspecting folks I encounter.  People who don’t wear masks, ignore social distancing, and hang around with like-minded folks do so at risk to themselves and others.  They may unknowingly pick up the virus, pass it on to their families, friends and innocent bystanders, and maybe even get sick and die.

As part of a civil society, we accept a number of rules to maintain order.  Our roads have speed limits, traffic lights, and signs to reduce accidents and harm to ourselves and others.  Wearing a mask follows the same philosophy.  

By wearing a mask, you agree to protect others if you become one of those asymptomatic carriers of the virus.  By setting an example and encouraging others to do the same, you are actually protecting yourself.  The math has been done on wearing a mask.  It flattens the curve and drives it down, saves lives, and helps manage COVID-19 until a vaccine is developed.  Not wearing one drives the curve up and kills people.

Liberty comes with responsibility and boundaries. Your liberty ends when it threatens the health and lives of others.  That’s why we have rules and guidelines to protect life and property.  It’s not about just your liberty; it’s about everyone else’s.  We are all in this together.  If you don’t respect my “life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness,” you really never understood liberty in the first place. 

I look for places to shop that enforce wearing masks for both employees and shoppers.  It turns out I am not the only one.  A Facebook Page has been created for Northern Virginians to share names of businesses that require masks.  Search Facebook for Masked Markets of NOVA if you would like to join.

If you would like to check with experts on the subject, visit the Centers for Disease Control website.   Everyone just wants to get back to normal.  Accepting the advice of the CDC will get us there sooner rather than later.  As a bonus, it might even save the life of someone you love.

Al Alborn is a political and social activist in Prince William County. His column appears every other week.  You can learn more about Al at

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