Letter to the Editor: Town Meeting, Masks, and Democracy

~ Submitted by Ann A Kiessling, PhD

Bedford lies in the heart of our Revolutionary War in which everyday folks were willing to risk life and property for the opportunity to self-govern.  Current horrific events reflect that same passion for self-governance by everyday Ukrainians.

But government “of the people, by the people and for the people” only works for ALL the people if ALL the people participate.

Bedford’s Town Moderator recently mandated that attendees at Bedford’s Annual Town Meeting wear face masks while not speaking at the microphones.  In contrast to 2020, this 2022 decision was made without meeting with Bedford’s Board of Health to discuss the safest precautions against COVID19 transmission at Town Meeting, especially surprising since the Board of Health voted to repeal the indoor mask mandate in town spaces on February 28.  Analyses to date of Middlesex County SARS2 testing data by Bedford’s Department of Health reveal masks are perhaps effective up to 9% in reducing infection, in agreement with large published masking studies.  Far more effective safety measures are: testing for SARS2 prior to convening, and maximizing air circulation during the meeting.  Neither of these more effective measures were discussed by the Town Moderator during his meeting with the Select Board on March 21, but will hopefully be implemented anyway.

Despite the inconvenience of having to wear a mask, it is critically important that ALL Bedford residents attend Town Meeting as several important issues facing Bedford are to be presented.  Currently, the fear of COVID19 far outweighs the actual risks from COVID19, especially in Bedford, which has been relatively spared from COVID19.  Mask-wearing should be viewed as a minor inconvenience relative to the high costs paid by our fellow countrymen in years past to ensure our freedom to self govern.

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We owe it to the brave Ukranians to fully participate in the Democratic process they are fighting and dying for, that we take for granted.  Please attend Town Meeting March 28 – masks and all – our continued freedoms depend on it.

[Dr. Kiessling holds a Ph.D. in Biochemistry/Biophysics.]

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