I have come across a surprisingly large number of people who are reluctant to wear a mask during this pandemic. The reasons are varied.
- “I don’t like wearing a mask, they are so uncomfortable. They hurt my ears.”
- “Masks are just plain annoying – you can’t see people’s faces and it’s hard to breathe.”
- “This is a free country, and no one can make me wear a mask.”
- “I am in good health, so if I get the disease I won’t be bothered – I might not even know I have it!”
- And even this one, “The virus isn’t even real, but is a vast conspiracy to take away our rights and freedoms! We don’t need to wear masks!”
I work in the pandemic response in my region, and deal with the impacts of the spread of Covid-19 in communities in parts of two states. I read Covid-19 research from around the world every day. I work directly with public health, emergency management, hospitals, clinics, and emergency medical services (EMS). Here are some facts about the Covid 19 pandemic and masks.
1. SARS-COV 2 is a real virus that causes a real disease, Covid-19. It is not a made-up excuse to take away rights and freedoms. This disease is killing real people at a rate that is so far nearly four times the numbers of an average flu season sickness and double the severe 2012 flu season. It is on its way to having the highest recorded sickness and death count since the flu pandemic of 1918-1920.
Yes, there are influencers who are shamelessly using this pandemic in an effort gain power and control. Yet we cannot ignore the fact that Covid 19 is a real public health emergency. Making mask-wearing the focal point of a fight against power-grabbers is clearly the wrong place to pick the fight. It is grossly unwise and potentially deadly.
2. Masks are now known to be the best and most available system for stemming the spread of SARS-COV 2 viral particles. Research is showing that the single most influential variable in determining which societies are the winners and losers in the Covid-19 fight is mask wearing. Those societies in which masks were nearly universally worn early on have the lowest transmission rates, the lowest death rates, and the lowest levels of economic disruption.
3. Masks significantly reduce the spread of the airborne “aerosolized” viral particles that leave an infected person when they breathe, talk, sing, cough, or sneeze. Properly-fitted masks reduce the amount particles that escape and the distance they travel. It is estimated that the timely and universal use of masks in the United States would have cut the number of cases, the number of deaths, and the amount of economic disruptions by perhaps a third.
4. Wearing a mask is not as much about protecting the wearer from the viral shedding of others, although there is limited effectiveness for this. It is about limiting the viral shedding by the wearer that may infect others. When a person chooses to go into any public gathering – office, family, church, or business – without a mask, they are putting others at risk more than themselves. Risk of sickness, financial impacts, and death.
We have all heard the argument; “But I’m not sick, so I don’t need to wear a mask!” Or the variant: “I am young and healthy, so I don’t need a mask!” These are not reasonable arguments for the reasons below.
- You can be a viral shedder for days before showing symptoms, making others sick before you know you are sick. Don’t be that person. Wear the mask.
- Around 40% of those who contract Covid-19 will not show symptoms at a noticeable level, but will be contagious nonetheless. This means you can be shedding viral particles for weeks, causing numerous infections and even deaths, and not know you are doing so. Don’t be that person. Wear the mask.
- The actual number of people who are sick with the disease is now estimated to be 10 to 20 times higher than the reported case numbers, meaning a very large number of people are carrying the virus, shedding the virus, and many are not showing symptoms or wearing a mask. Don’t be that person. Wear the mask.
If a person chooses to not wear a seat belt, saying that their choice doesn’t negatively impact others, it still is a bad idea. With face masks, such logic is far worse. If you choose to not wear the mask, that choice increases risk to numerous other people with whom you will have passing contact every time you are in a public setting, including family settings. Community spread of the virus happens at family visits, family photos, church events, funerals, and over beers more than at the supermarket. Don’t be that person. Wear the mask.
Freedom is first and foremost the opportunity to live responsibly, not irresponsibly. Freedom is more about doing what is right, not what I want. Please don’t make this about politics, personal freedoms, comfort or convenience, or conspiracy theories. Not wearing a face mask in the presence of any other person is an irresponsible and potentially harmful choice. It is to disregard the safety of others and willfully risk harming loved ones or strangers in order to exercise your personal opinions.
Don’t be that person. Wear the mask.