Dear Visitors from out of state:
We love you. We really do. You help our local businesses. You support our local economy when you come here, go to our restaurants, frequent our local shops and enjoy our beautiful landscapes.
But ... you are in our house, so please follow our rules. It isn't polite to visit someone else's place and do whatever you please.
Our local and state officials are working hard to protect us from COVID-19. Our businesses have already paid a heavy price during lockdown and now, as they reopen, are taking this seriously, posting signs outside their doors to let everyone know masks and social distancing are required.
Taos residents are doing their part as well - most are wearing masks, avoiding crowds and staying six feet apart. Washing hands well with soap and water remains an excellent habit to prevent the spread of all kinds of diseases, not just coronavirus.
Yes, the masks are a pain. They can be hot and fog up glasses. But wearing masks protects our loved ones, our elderly, whom we respect, our neighbors who might have conditions that make them vulnerable.
The Mayo Clinic, John Hopkins University and the Centers for Disease Control note that a significant number of people who have COVID-19 show no symptoms; wearing a face covering can prevent them from spreading the virus to others.
In the last couple of weeks, New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham relaxed some of the restrictions imposed under the emergency health order and began allowing businesses to slowly reopen in hopes of helping them stay afloat. And with summer upon the region, plenty of out-of-town visitors are here, judging by the license plates in parking lots and at gas stations.
Taos cases, while still much fewer than in other parts of the state, began to climb quickly over the last few days. An increase in illness raises the specter of businesses having to shut down again, which has happened in other parts of the country.
The Taos economy can't have that happen.
Because so many people have been ignoring the mask requirement or giving local business owners a hard time about it, the Taos Council this week made it a misdemeanor for those who don't comply.
Claiming it's your right not to wear a mask if you don't feel like it is like saying you can drive whatever speed you want in a school zone or neighborhood, regardless of the speed limit.
For those who believe requiring masks violates their constitutional rights, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a 1905 smallpox case, Jacobson v. Massachusetts, that local authorities could require vaccinations and issue fines to those who refused, as part of a community's right to protect itself "against an epidemic or disease which threatens the safety of its members."
"The liberty secured by the Constitution of the United States to every person within its jurisdiction," wrote the justices in the opinion, "does not import an absolute right in each person to be, at all times and in all circumstances, wholly freed from restraint."
Putting on a mask for a little while and keeping physical distance from others might just save a life.
So, visitors, we welcome you.
But please respect our town. Play by our rules. Help us keep our community, and yourself, healthy.
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