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Michelle Phillips

I want to apologize to all of you that had the displeasure of seeing my unmasked face on Saturday at the Santa Parade in Middleton. 

As anyone who reads this column knows, I am a big proponent of mask wearing. I am not someone who weighs the risk of being outside versus inside, and absolutely refuse to do anything that requires removing a mask anywhere in public. I have been preaching it (and living it) since March. I wear a mask everywhere, even when I am outside hiking on the trails across from my house. Even though many people in the park are unmasked, I don’t trust that people stay home when they are sick, especially if it is a mild illness. 

The reason I was unmasked on Saturday was simple. I forgot it in the car and didn’t have time to go back for it and risk missing out on taking pictures. Quite honestly, I didn’t notice my bare face at first, but I did start to notice people staring me down. Then it dawned on me…I was in pubic, albeit outside, with a no mask!

At that point I yelled for Santa to look over at me, quickly snapped some pics of he and the elves in the truck behind him and headed back to my car. 

One of the things I noticed returning to my car was that people were completely steering clear of me. No one tried to approach me or talk to me. “Hmmm,” I thought. “maybe going maskless outside is okay if it keeps others away from me.” Then I squashed that notion because I could be the one who is asymptomatic and carrying the virus. I could not live with knowing that I caused someone else to become sick and maybe even die. The guilt would be too overwhelming.

So, Middletonians (or is it Middletonites), I want to apologize for my negligence in forgetting my mask. I will remain diligent in my mask wearing and promise to avoid putting any of you at risk or give you the feeling of potential risk. I will point out that if the event had been inside, I would have made a different decision and let the photo opp pass me by. 

Soon we will all be able to get a COVID-19 vaccine and hopefully by next year at this time we will all be maskless, children will be sitting on Santa’s lap instead of waving as he drives by, cookie exchanges, holiday parties and family gatherings will be in full swing. That is not the case this year. 

I want to encourage you all to keep doing all the things you have been doing to protect yourselves and others and stop the spread of the virus. We must still wear masks, frequently wash or sanitize hands, social distance and limit gatherings and trips in public. Just because people are getting vaccinated does not mean the risk is gone. Until 60 percent of the population is vaccinated, we will not be able to lift these restrictions and mitigation measures. 

Please be patient everyone. We will get there. 

I know there are those that will not take the vaccine, those that will question its science, its efficacy, it’s side effects, but there is a risk with any vaccine or medication. Please do not let a few allergic reactions influence your decision to get vaccinated. RNA based vaccines have been around for a couple of decades, and though relatively new on the medical scene, have shown promise and less side effects because they only contain a very tiny amount of live virus. 

So, friends, let’s look forward to 2021 with cautious optimism, and I propose a mass unmasking event once it is safe to do so. We can all take to the streets and throw them in the air as a symbol of collective liberation–not unlike a graduation. Until then, be safe and Happy Holidays to you all!

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