A bus driver in San Francisco was recently attacked by three passengers while he was trying to enforce a mask-wearing policy in accordance with city requirements. The incident happened on July 22.
According to Newsweek, the driver was operating the bus in the South of Market district when "three male passengers without face coverings boarded the bus." The driver pulled over to remove the passengers, and they repeatedly refused his request that they put masks on.
It should be noted that the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) currently requires all people to wear a mask when they are using public transportation. This bus driver was simply trying to do his job and make sure he was following the rules.
But the three passengers refused to comply, and eventually, they started attacking the bus driver. One of the passengers used a wooden bat to beat him. Other passengers reported that the three men also used racial slurs and spat on the driver, who is Asian American.
Roger Marenco, the president of the Transport Workers Union, told the San Francisco Chronicle that the driver was bruised and his finger was fractured in the incident, which he called "extremely scary." "They spit on him as well," he said. "That right there is another serious assault, especially in today's times."
No one has been arrested in connection with the attack so far. The police said that they were not investigating the incident as a hate crime. "There is no indication that race was a factor in this assault," they said. "This is being investigated as an aggravated assault along with the health order violation."
But the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) reports that the number of racially-motivated attacks on Asian Americans has increased since the COVID-19 pandemic hit the U.S. The president has called it the "China virus" and the "kung flu," both racist and offensive terms that have stoked to anti-Asian sentiments in the U.S.
Even if the attack was partially about the mask mandate, the report that the assailants used racial slurs while attacking the bus driver should be looked into.
Mask-wearing has unfortunately become a political statement. The president and his supporters have perpetuated the idea that masks do not work and / or are just a tactic to control the population. But the science doesn't lie; masks are extremely effective in curbing the spread of the virus.
In fact, if everyone wore a mask while they were out in public and unable to stay socially distant, the virus would be nearly eradicated in a matter of weeks. Many other countries have been able to regain some sense of normalcy because their citizens and leaders took the virus seriously and took the small step of wearing masks and staying socially distant before the virus got out of control.
COVID-19 cases in the U.S. have been on the rise even as the virus level off and drop in other countries around the world. Part of it has to do with individuals' reluctance to social distance and wear masks.
But it also has to do with states opening too early. We've been so eager to reopen economies and get back to business as usual that we are compromising ourselves even further.