To Mask or Not to Mask During COVID-19

Commentary COVID-19 Events Impacting Our Lives Lifestyle Impacts

“I’m not wearing a mask because of COVID-19. I have rights!”

It really shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that we are in the midst of a global pandemic. Yet, people still debate the seriousness of the COVID-19 threat – certainly, that’s happening minute-by-minute on social media.

But the statistics make it hard to deny that people are getting very sick and too many are dying needlessly from this virus. If we don’t know someone, or at least know of someone, who has been very sick or died from COVID-19, we’re in a diminishing minority. Our lifestyle has changed markedly because of it.

Health officials have been nearly unanimous in their recommendation to wear face coverings when we are around people other than those in our immediate household. No, they admit, wearing a mask will not guarantee someone won’t catch the virus. But, really, name one guarantee we have in this life besides death. 

Still, the data is consistent that COVID-19 is most commonly spread by small droplets emitted when we speak, shout, sneeze, or even exhale. It’s simply a matter of how far those droplets travel and whether they can remain suspended in air for any period of time.

Does a Mask Work?

Photo by Hillerich & Bradsby

A properly made and fitted mask1 will stop at least most of those droplets from entering the body through the mouth or nose2.

It doesn’t take a lot of thought to see that is a logical conclusion. Further, wearing a mask keeps people from expelling droplets themselves. But ‘wearing a mask’ means covering the nose and mouth with the mask. Tucking it under the chin or having a mask hanging from one ear doesn’t count.

It’s My Right

Yet there are many of our fellow citizens who reject this logic. They fall back on their right not to wear a mask. They have no obligation, in their minds, to help keep others safe.

But that so-called right seems transitory. The same people who claim a right not to wear a mask don’t have a problem with “no shirt, no shoes, no service” requirements in restaurants. People long ago realized the silliness of claiming a right to walk into a restaurant shirtless and barefoot.

Likewise, most don’t claim a right to ride a motorcycle or play football without a helmet. Will that helmet guarantee that the rider / player won’t be injured? No, of course not. But smacking an un-helmeted head on the pavement or fieldturf logically will hurt more than having a padded helmet to take the blow.

Do Young People Need Masks?

Most data suggest that younger people are less impacted by COVID-19. They show milder symptoms and are far less likely to die from the virus. And how do most young people catch it? Being unmasked at parties has been a major contributor. Witness the number of sports programs and more recently, schools, shut down because of large numbers of young people catching the virus. 

“But I’m young. Even if I catch COVID-19, I might get a little sick but I’ll get through it.” That’s their logic. But that doesn’t mean they can’t pass it on. What about parents – or grandparents? If a young person passes the virus on to them, and they die, how much will the right to congregate without a mask mean then?

This was recently brought home in Enterprise, Utah. A group of parents proposed a “No Mask Monday” to protest a requirement by the local high school that students wear masks3.

Enterprise High School Senior and cheerleader Dallee Cobb led a group of students in countering the parents’ idea of rights: “We saw with the Class of 2020 how fast things we love can be taken away from us,” she said. “We, of all people, should know that wearing a mask is not fun. Neither is wearing a seatbelt, or a life jacket, or pads for football, but we do all these things so that we have a future.”

I applaud her stance.

As For Me

I’m a senior citizen. The certainty of death is closer in front of me than the life behind me. But that doesn’t mean I want to hurry the inevitable. 

My wife and I in a selfie at our grandson’s baseball game

So I do my best not to be around people other than my immediate family. And if I must go out, I wear a mask – always. If you’re not wearing one, I’ll do my best to keep distance between us. 

And if I should catch the virus, I’ll still wear that mask as long as I’m mobile. I’ll do it to protect you. 

That’s my right – to be cognizant of the interests of others beyond a self-centered right to not wear a mask.

NOTES

  1. Ringer, Janelle. “Which Type of Face Mask Is Most Effective against COVID-19?” Loma Linda University Health, 11 Aug. 2020, news.llu.edu/health-wellness/which-type-of-face-mask-most-effective-against-covid-19
  2. Louisville companies Hillerich & Bradsby and WickedSheets are making good masks at reasonable prices.
  3. Reported by Alexander Kacala on Today.com, August 27, 2020.
Mike Worley

Mike is retired and lives in Louisville, KY USA. He writes about lifestyle issues. He also enjoys photography and works part-time as a college volleyball official.