The give and take of wearing a mask in public.
It finally happened. Many states across the US have started requiring every individual to wear a mask when going into public places. For many people, this could feel like a violation of freedom, and for others, a step towards safety. In general, masks aren’t fun to wear. Maybe on Halloween - but after that, we are ready to get back to normal life. Is it worth it to wear a mask? Well, the data seems to say so.
A small look at the science behind cloth masks.
Data is tricky to analyze with something that is as current as this pandemic is. While there will always be mistakes, most organizations (CDC, FDA) are recommending a mask when going out in public. The reason behind this is simple - humans are basically portable SuperSoakers. When we talk, we release little aerosol water droplets into the air from our lungs. The virus can sit in these aerosol droplets and potentially find a new home when they are breathed in by someone else. Cloth masks stop these droplets from going in the air.
“What if I’m not sick?”
This is an incredibly valid question that people who are opposed to wearing masks are currently asking. Why wear a mask if I’m not sick? The answer is an important one, if not a simple one. Masks do more than just stop you from harming others - they offer a layer of protection between you and the air around you. This means that if someone coughs in your area, a mask stops the aerosol particles from making their way into your lungs. Simply put, a mask can help you stay safe from sick people around you. Because let’s be honest, you can’t always trust others to look out for your well being.
There are other benefits to wearing a mask as well. If you are someone who often touches your face (guilty), then a mask is a good reminder that can help you stop. While the data is currently unclear on how well the virus can be picked up on other surfaces, it is still best practice to not touch your mouth while there is a global pandemic going on.
“I’m not at risk”
For the vast majority of people, COVID-19 is not a death sentence. They will get sick (some incredibly so) and then continue with their lives. The most recent data is still unclear as to the exact death rate for the virus, as there are just too many variables right now. What IS known about the virus is that is has a drastically higher death rate for the elderly and those with underlying health conditions. Our society operates with the understanding that, in general, people aren’t intentionally doing things to harm others. When it does happen, we put laws in place. Wearing a mask is an excellent way to make sure that people who are truly scared and at risk feel and are safe. Rules about masks are the Stop Signs of the coronavirus - listening to them keeps you and others safe when we intersect in life.
Are masks annoying and frustrating? Yes, absolutely, just like stopping at stop signs when nobody is around. Thankfully though, we can all do our part and make sure that we aren’t barreling through four-way intersections without a seatbelt on. Also, not all masks are horrible to wear, and some of them look really great.
Written by Colby Maxwell