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Defiance is not a strategy for battling a pandemic.

It won't stop COVID-19; in fact, it will make it worse.

Face masks are the antidote. They work.

As of Tuesday, Joplin retained the dubious honor of ranking as the area of the nation with the fastest growth rate of COVID-19 cases over the past seven days, according to the Dartmouth Atlas Project.

Our growth rate was 15.7% — nearly double that of second place — on Monday but back to 12% on Tuesday, which was still enough to remain in the top spot.

Now might also be the time to point out that the identified co-morbidities that make COVID-19 deadly for many — diabetes, heart disease, obesity, lung disease — are problems we have in spades in Joplin.

We are at greater risk. Additional caution is warranted.

Given the dramatic growth of COVID-19 cases in the region, the Joplin City Council has set a special meeting for tonight to discuss whether to mandate face mask usage, similar to what has been enacted by other cities, including Fayetteville, Arkansas.

It is the right move. It is a minor inconvenience. Face masks work.

Think back to the two hair salon workers in Springfield who had COVID-19 earlier this month and who exposed 140 of their customers and perhaps hundreds of other customers and co-workers who also came into the salon. City officials feared an outbreak. It did not happen, and there has not been a single case traced to the hair stylists. They were saved because those two workers wore face masks.

That's evidence from experience.

Medical studies have reached the same conclusion: Face masks work. That's evidence from science.

We also spoke with Fayetteville City Council Member Sonia Gutierrez, who supported her community's decision to require face masks. Her advice: "Always think of public safety and health first."

The overall response, she told us, has been one of gratitude. She was worried that the city would lose business as people who didn't want to wear a face mask to the store or to a restaurant went elsewhere. She said she has heard from many — people who are immunocompromised and others — who are coming TO Fayetteville now because they think it is a safer place to shop.

We shut down businesses, laid off friends and co-workers, and pushed our economy toward Great Depression-era numbers, all to get a handle on the pandemic and to keep our health care system from getting overwhelmed. If we are unwilling to take this much less burdensome step and this pandemic finds fertile ground in Joplin, then taking that more drastic step was for naught. Let's not negate that earlier sacrifice.

Face masks work.

Do this.

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