Laura Dern Is Begging You To Wear a Mask, No Matter How Sick of It You May Be

Kelsey Hurwitz
Photo credit: Axelle/Bauer-Griffin
Photo credit: Axelle/Bauer-Griffin

From Woman's Day

If Laura Dern has just three words to say when it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic: “Wear a mask.” Alright, so the actress and longtime partner of the American Lung Association has much more to say, especially now that she's working to spread the word on the importance of wearing a mask and taking safety precautions to help yourself (and others!) stay safe and healthy during this ongoing public health crisis that, to date, has claimed the lives of over 130,000 Americans.

“I think people have become so desperate to get back to life and employment,” she tells Woman’s Day, acknowledging that people are tired of social distancing, sheltering-in-place, and wearing masks. In fact, Dern herself is eager to return to pre-pandemic life. “But if it’s not safe, it’s not safe.”

Dern started working with the ALA after playing Bobbi Lamrecht for the film adaptation of the memoir Wild. Lamrecht was author Cheryl Strayed’s mother, who had died of lung cancer. “ALA’s work is very important to that family,” Dern explains. “Especially the mission statement of continuing to educate people, particularly women, about lung cancer.” What began as a part in a movie turned into a springboard for Dern’s work with the ALA, and since then her mother has dealt with a lung condition and she’s had friends who’ve struggled with various respiratory issues, making her work at the ALA all the more personal.

She’s also a mom to two teenagers, and is all-too aware of how consistently her children are being bombarded by vaping adds and pro-vaping messaging. “These teens were [part of] a generation [that] grew up thinking they’d never smoke and couldn't believe our generation would even consider it,” she says. “And they were pushed the marketing of vaping as a safer alternative, even though there’s been so much research against that.”

During the COVID-19 pandemic. the ALA has been focusing on providing aid to underserved communities, including Black and brown communities that have been disproportionately impacted by the crisis. (Currently, Latinx and Black Americans are three times more likely to become infected with COVID-19 than white Americans.) In an effort to aid these hard-hit areas, the ALA has partnered with CVS to offer free testing in CVS parking lots around the country, and in addition to sharing information and bringing awareness to the virus. (You can donate to the ALA at any CVS register to help the fight against COVID-19, as well as help the fight against lung diseases.)

All 50 states have "re-opened" in some capacity, but Dern says now's not the time for complacency. And of course, she's right: at least 21 states have paused their efforts to re-open in response to a rise in confirmed COVID-19 cases, “It would be a tragedy for not only us but our loved ones, particularly our high risk loved ones, if we allow anyone to politicize keeping our loved ones safe,” she says. “This is not a political issue. We must all be wearing masks to keep everyone safe.”

In fact, Dern considers it an “American tradition amidst a pandemic” to consider others with empathy and work for the protection of all rather than just ourselves. She emphasizes that each day researchers are learning more about the virus, how it operates, and how it spreads. “Wearing a mask is the one thing we know can protect others,” she says.

Dern practices what she preaches, of course, and implements a mandatory mask rule with her family. “I feel proud to watch my teenagers make the sacrifice of quarantining and saying socially distanced, in my son’s case not having a high school graduation and not going to college in September at his school,” she says. “And he’s hopefully aware that all these choices including wearing a mask when he leaves the house are keeping his grandmother safe and other loved ones safe.”

As the country struggles to reopen, Dern thinks back to a saying her grandparents used to use: this is where the rubber meets the road. And now more than ever, she says, “We have to do this for each other, and continue to educate ourselves.”

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