Editor’s note: Collin Kelley, the editor of our sister publication Atlanta INtown, wrote this commentary for the July issue of that newspaper.

Back at the end of March, I thought I might have COVID-19. I had a low-grade fever, sniffles, low back pain, and no taste or smell for a week, which was followed by a few days of fatigue.

I mentioned it to only a handful of people because I didn’t want to cause alarm, and since it never progressed to the cough or lung stage, I chalked it up to flu or a cold. I didn’t think I’d been in contact with anyone who’d had COVID-19 as I was already in isolation mode and wearing a mask.

Collin Kelley and his mask.

But it was indeed COVID-19. I got the antibody test last month when I went for my regular checkup. For someone my age and health issues, my doctor says I am very lucky not to have wound up in the hospital.

I encourage everyone to get the antibody test and know your status on this. You, too, could have had a mild case like I did or been asymptomatic and not even known it. The word of health and medical officials should be your guide, not politicians who think it’s a hoax or no big deal. Georgia is one of more than 20 states having a surge in coronavirus cases.

In early June, a friend and I escaped for a weekend to Savannah. I desperately needed a change of scenery after being cooped up in my apartment for months. I’m not a big swimmer, but I do love being by the water. We found an Airbnb that was off the beaten path, but still walking distance to the far end of Tybee Beach.

It was relaxing, but unnerving weekend because Savannah was like the land the pandemic forgot. Other than restaurant workers, I didn’t see a single mask all weekend. The beach was heaving with people and so were Tybee’s bars, restaurants, and shops. Along River Street in Savannah, the tourists were back, the shops and bars were open, and it appeared to be summer as usual. Again, no masks. This is why we’re having a surge in cases.

As demonstrators took to the streets in June to protest against racial injustice, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms urged those taking part to get tested for COVID-19. It should come as no surprise that the age group showing the highest number of new cases is 21 to 30.

Look, I understand that wearing a mask is uncomfortable. It makes my face sweat and sometimes I don’t feel like I’m getting enough oxygen. What I don’t get is the people who ludicrously claim that wearing a mask infringes on their liberty, is un-American, and have turned it into a partisan issue. A mask has nothing to do with politics or your patriotism; it’s saving lives — possibly your own.

Gov. Brian Kemp reaffirmed on June 26 that he won’t mandate wearing face masks. It’s up to us as good citizens to be responsible and think beyond our own comfort and misguided ideas of “personal liberty.” We’re in a public health crisis, so do your part.

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.