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As the elections are coming soon and people are voting early, some are taking the time to do some research on various candidates. I want to talk about Dan Forest, North Carolina’s lieutenant governor who is running for, well, governor. A month ago, my colleague, Mariana Fabian, wrote a column about her general disgust for Forest, so I’m not going to repeat any of her sentiments. However, I will criticize his stance on mask mandates.

Forest said he will end the mask mandate if elected to governor because he believes that masks don’t work. “I don’t think there’s any science that backs that up,” he said. “That’s my personal opinion.” 

He adds that science is based on skepticism, because not all studies state the same thing. He then makes it a partisan issue by saying any skepticism that disagrees with the Democrat’s position is shut down.

There is a lot to unpack there, but first, I must prove that masks are scientifically proven to slow the spread of COVID-19. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a federally-funded organization that relies on multiple studies for information, states that masks are effective in slowing the spread of COVID-19, as it helps prevent people from spreading the disease to others.

Another thing I must address is his claim that science is based on skepticism. That I agree with. Most scientists are often replicating and expanding each other’s studies and theories to make sure the information and results are as accurate as possible. It’s nothing bad; when new information is brought to light and verified, the story will change.

However, when multiple sources have shown that masks are effective, not only is Forest’s opinion terrible, it is factually incorrect. Plus if masks were ineffective, then why would doctors, surgeons and other medical professionals wear them constantly even before the pandemic?  Facts or feelings, am I right?

Furthermore, I have a problem when Forest says he will lift the mask mandate for personal freedom. Wearing a mask has nothing to do with personal freedom. It is about protecting others from being infected. All the government is telling you to do is wear a piece of cloth over your face. The government already tells you to wear clothes, and I don’t see many people protesting public indecency laws.

Plus, I find it very ironic that he champions individualistic freedoms, but he is also a part of the  party that tries to take them away. Some of the highlights include creating a bill that banned transgender people from using the bathroom they identify with, trying to pass a bill that took voting rights away from older African Americans and even banning free speech in a town over the removal of Confederate statues. It's the hypocrisy for me.

And what is even more worrisome is how Forest and his party pressured Gov. Roy Cooper to bring children, specifically kindergarten through fifth grade, back into schools full time. While I have many problems with this, I will focus more on his mask mandate policy, or lack thereof.

Forest has said it should be up to the parents on whether the child should wear a mask. While children are more resistant to COVID-19, some can still experience the symptoms and be asymptomatic carriers, putting older people like parents and teachers at more of a risk. In addition, it could prolong the shutdown even more.

Some proponents will also say it will be difficult to enforce a mask mandate at school. Well, any woman who went to a public high school will gladly tell you how many times they were stopped because their shorts were 3 inches above the knee or, God forbid, they were showing their shoulders. If school officials can harass female students on their fashion choices, they can enforce a mask mandate.

But all in all, it’s sad that wearing a mask has become such a partisan issue. We are in the middle of a pandemic, and over 200,000 Americans have died. If Dan Forest makes the simple act of protecting people through small actions like wearing a mask a partisan issue, denies the science used to protect people and lacks an adequate plan to stop the spread of COVID-19, then he is not qualified to lead the state.

I am currently a third-year studying English. I am also a staff writer who reports for the news or complains about whatever I'm angry towards at the time.