Face Masks & Health
Last Updated July 17th 2020
As the global COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage across the world, especially across the United States (and my home state of Florida), I regularly see articles about anti-mask activists, like the ones recently dominating a county meeting in Utah. I've been thinking about what wearing a mask (or the mandates requiring masks) means to these individuals, and what we can do to encourage mask usage.
The science has shown that wearing a cloth mask, combined with social distancing, sanitizing, disinfecting, and washing your hands regularly, can help reduce the risk and spread of disease and sickness, not just COVID-19. Even the Centers for Disease Control recommends all of these. Countries like Japan, which have strong social constructs, already have plenty of citizens who wear masks when they're sick, or trying to prevent getting sick, when they're in public. Doctors and nurses wear masks to prevent getting sick, or getting their patients sick, when performing surgeries.
I feel like we've missed something obvious here: Regardless of COVID, for the good of our whole world... When you're sick, you should be staying home, and if you have to be going out, wear a mask.
Wear a Mask #
I get it, you don't want to be forced to wear a mask. But when you're sick, you already consider the well-being of your family, your grandparents, your friends. You cancel plans because you're sick, or you don't go visit your grandmother because you don't want to get them sick. Your uncle may be really sick so you're required to wear a mask when visiting them in the hospital, in order to prevent catching and spreading it.
This is what is so particularly damning about COVID, and why the mandates have been so important. As many of those who catch COVID-19 are asymptomatic (showing no outwards symptoms), it is difficult to figure out who are carriers and who aren't. And those who do get really sick can have lungs that are essentially permanently damaged for the rest of their lives, if they even survive it.
As such, for the benefit of everyone... everyone should be wearing masks until the risk is contained.
Wearing a mask is the next logical step that honestly, we should've been doing all along. I will be wearing a mask in public every time that I am sick, moving forward, well after COVID-19 has (hopefully) faded away.
But I also get it. American individualism is a powerful ideal. We don't want to be told what to do. Unfortunately, it has become a massive political dividing line. And now, it essentially comes down to those who care about other people and want to keep everyone safe... and those who don't. It sounds harsh, but the excuses against wearing a mask all fall due to faux science, pundit fearmongering, or the idea that COVID-19 is a hoax (until someone you personally know gets infected).
"It's just a flu" #
For a lot of people, it is similar to the flu, but so was the Spanish Flu. So was H1N1. There's a higher risk factor, and a higher death rate with these strains of viruses. Over 135 thousand people have died of COVID-19 in the United States alone. And this number is very likely under-reported.
"I don't want to be required to wear a mask" #
Then wear one for the good of society. If you just did this to begin with, a mandate wouldn't be needed.
"It's a hoax" #
If anything, its dangers might've been exaggerated. But we have enough dangerous diseases, and if we don't contain them early on, they'll become permanent fixtures in our society, forever causing harm to our survival and life expectancy. The problem with advanced notice is that if we do our job and contain it early, it comes across as over-exaggerating and fearmongering.
We see this in Florida every year with hurricanes. They can cause a LOT Of damage and kill a lot of people. We should be prepared, maybe even evacuate. But if that storm goes a different way, makes landfall sooner/later than expected, it was "fake news" or a "hoax"... We don't take steps to be prepared unless we're afraid. Media and our politicians tap into that, to force us into action. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't be prepared. We must be.
The same applies to COVID-19 or the next pandemic. Or tornadoes, hurricanes, or a zombie outbreak. We need to be prepared to do what we can to keep them under control. To be safe, and healthy. If we did this of our own volition, we wouldn't need the fear.
"A mask is blocking oxygen" or "increases carbon dioxide" #
No, It isn't, and no, it doesn't. Nurses and doctors wear masks for much longer periods of times than you need to, and they're ok.
A Quick Anecdote #
I'm hard of hearing. It's absolutely frustrating that everyone is wearing a mask, as I am seriously struggling more than usual to hear. I read lips to know what is being said, so masks have drastically inhibited my ability to understand. But I still wear a mask, and I'd rather you wear a mask than risk spreading COVID-19.
Be Prepared #
We should always be doing more to prevent getting sick and prevent others from getting sick, regardless of COVID-19. Consider buying a mask. Consider wearing one when you're not feeling well.
This isn't forever. Please just wear a mask, practice social distancing, stay home if possible, and help bring this pandemic under control.