Until now masks were, for the most part, required for only certain professions; superhero, catcher, and doctor come to mind. But with the outbreak of COVID-19 they have become more than something we see in passing or on the face of our favorite masked crusader. They are as common as socks and as required as shoes and shirts in every grocery store and essential place of business.
So why is it important to wear a mask? The simple answer is that it protects the wearer, and others around the wearer, from getting COVID-19. The less simple answer is that a mask needs to be worn by all because we cannot tell who is infected. There is a lot of asymptomatic infection happening, which means that we can’t point to somebody and say, “hey, they are infected.”
The biggest idea behind masks is source control. If we can stop, or lessen, the number of expelled droplets then we can reduce the number of cases. The concept behind wearing masks is that less (droplets) is more (health), which is why the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization strongly recommend cloth masks for the general population.
Where’s The Proof?
Health Affairs, the leading publication on health policy and health services, recently conducted a study that looked at the number of COVID-19 cases before and after the mask mandates. The study reached across 15 states and found that after five days of required masks the COVID-19 growth rate slowed by .9% and after three weeks the growth rate slowed by 2%.
Also, the CDC has found that people who are in close contact with one another (yes, there’s that six feet rule) are most likely to spread COVID-19 to each other. The face cloth is the most effective way we have of slowing the transmission of people who cannot (or are unwilling for some reason) social distance the proper amount.
Don’t Be That Person
There have been many videos circling around YouTube, and various other social media platforms, depicting people being verbally abusive, or even physically aggressive (not keeping their six feet mind you), when it comes to being told they have to wear a mask. Why are people being this way? What is the point of being angry about something that helps us (meaning humanity) slow the spread of a deadly virus? It starts with people’s lack of empathy for others.
Let’s be honest. None of us are perfect. That is a good starting point. The videos of people losing it over being told to do something they do not want to do is a good distraction from our fear of the unknown. But the videos are also a way for us to hold up a mirror. Any of us could be that person at Walmart trying to push past an employee. Judgement is easy. Empathy is not. So, before we go any further, we will choose the hard road.
Culturally, the United States is having a hard time with the mask. It is new to us and like most new things there is going to be an adjustment period. There are also going to be tantrums as that little child in us fights against the change. The U.S. will adjust, and is, it is just going to take some time.
Many countries in Asia have being wearing masks for years. It is much more commonplace. The awkward feeling of seeing oneself in something strange, in an altered state of physical appearance, has dissipated and become the norm. Wearing a mask is like wearing a hat on a sunny day. The hat helps prevent skin cancer and the mask helps prevent COVID-19.
The Mask, The Mask, The Mask
Are we going to wake up tomorrow to our phones shocking us into reality with an alert telling us we don’t have to wear masks anymore? No, we are not. Most would want nothing more than that to happen, but the fact is we are into the next phase of our evolution. The beginning of the phase is masks. Who knows where it will lead to? Possibly longer nose hairs that better filter viruses (hopefully not), but for now it has led to the mask. So, instead of fighting against it, or fearing it, we should embrace it. And if you are unwilling to embrace it as a medical advantage, then take it as an opportunity to better express yourself through fashion. Because, let’s be honest, there are some pretty great looking masks out there. And, after you get used to breathing a bit more carbon dioxide, they are a great way to tell somebody that Corona used to be your favorite beer, or that you’re really REALLY missing Disneyland. So, if you cannot embrace the mask for medical purposes, then you better try to find a way because my friend, the mask is here to stay.