Asking people to wear masks during this ongoing Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic has unmasked a lot of ugliness in society. And it hasn’t been the “oh-that-mask-doesn’t-go-with-your-outfit” kind of ugliness. Instead, the ugliness had been some kind of political and cultural war, which should surprise basically no one in 2020.
For example, the video accompanying this tweet shows various people refusing to wear masks when asked to do so and even coughing in protest:
Coughing at someone because you can’t do what you want? Really? As you can see, each of these customers give a reason on why he or she is refusing to wear a mask even though the business is requesting all customers to do so. Here are 10 reasons that are commonly being used to justify such refusals:
Freedom has never meant, “do whatever you would like.” How would you feel if someone decided to not wear any clothes and fart with impunity in your workplace, at school, or outside your house? There are reasons why societies need rules: to protect each other. Because, believe it or not, there are people out there who don’t care about your or other people’s safety and well-being. Yes, shocking. Wearing a mask or other face covering is mainly about protecting others from you.
2. The virus is not real or not that bad.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, every horror movie has that one character that says, “everything’s fine,” or “it’s no big deal.” Tell that to people who have gotten sick or otherwise suffered directly from the virus. Nearly 100,000 people in the U.S. have already died from the virus.
3. The mask will cause various medical problems.
Vicky Forster has already covered and debunked for Forbes claims that wearing masks will affect your immune system or give you carbon dioxide poisoning. Assuming that your mask is not made out of some strange material like cement or Viagra patches, the mask should not harm you as long as you can breathe reasonably comfortably through it and aren’t allergic to the material. To be sure, give the mask a test run, or rather a test wear, at home before going outside with it. If you can’t breathe, that’s not good. You may be either using too many layers or the wrong material. Cinder block material is not good for a mask, for example. If you feel like your head is going to explode, the mask maybe on too tight. There are very few situations in which “head about to explode” is a good sign.
To be fair, there are some medical conditions such as a real skin or respiratory problems that could impede your ability to wear a regular mask. In such a case, talk to your doctor to get advice on how to handle the situation.
4. Asking you to wear a mask is discrimination.
If being told that you have to wear a mask is the worst discrimination that you have ever faced, then you’ve lived a pretty lucky life. Many, many people regularly face discrimination at their workplaces, at schools, in their dating and social lives, and even in public because of their race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and physical state. Just talk to Asian Americans who have been verbally and physically attacked by strangers during this Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic.
Actor George Takei offered some perspective here:
He’s referring to internment camps in the U.S. that Japanese-Americans were forced into during World War II.
Moreover, it’s not as if stores and other locations are asking only certain people to wear a mask. Well, technically, you only have to wear a mask if you are human and have a head. So, yes, headless people and dogs are getting away with not doing so. Yet, in the video accompanying this tweet, the person claims that the store is discriminating against her because she is not wearing a mask:
Furthermore, the manager does offer the customer a viable alternative: to shop for her. The customer doesn’t want this option because it would mean giving the store her name and credit card number, which is kind of what you do every time you go shopping, assuming that you don’t always pay in cash or gold bullion.
5. You tested negative for the Covid-19 coronavirus.
That was then, this is now. Unless someone is sticking a cotton swab up your nose every minute or so and then immediately testing it for Covid-19 coronavirus and getting back the results, you don’t know when you might become infectious. You don’t need to have symptoms to transmit the virus.
In this CNBC news segment, President Donald Trump explains that he doesn’t need to wear a mask because he has tested negative for the virus:
6. It is not cool or masculine.
If wearing a mask is the difference between you being masculine and not masculine, then buddy, you’ve got problems. If your significant other leaves you because you wore a mask during a pandemic, then that person probably did you a favor. Wedding vows don’t tend to include the kicker “to have and to hold from this day forward, for better and for worse, as long as he or she doesn’t wear a mask during a pandemic.”
Besides, what’s cool or masculine is subjective. Before the Beatles came around, men having long hair was a no-no. Movies, television, advertising, and what celebrities do often govern what is considered sexy, so the whole thing is a bit made up anyway. If you really want to express your freedom, wear a mask to show that you don’t care what other people think is sexy.
For those who don’t think wearing a mask is masculine, take a look at at the #maskulinity hashtag. Here is a tweet using that hashtag from Jamie Coleman, MD, FACS, a trauma and acute care surgeon at Denver Health and Associate Professor of Surgery at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, whose husband was a football player:
7. You can’t get the virus.
Maybe you somehow think that you are protected against the virus. Maybe you’ve found the magical protective drug, amulet, or chant that no real scientist has found. Good for you. Now show everyone the actual scientific proof that it works.
Regardless, it’s not all about you. Wearing a mask protects others from you, because you may be infected and contagious without even realizing it.
Here Eric Topol, MD (@EricTopol), the founder and Director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute, offers an explanation from a peer-reviewed medical journal and @giantbunnylove, who clearly likes bunnies, offers an explanation involving pee-review:
8. The mask hides and covers your beautiful nose, mouth, smile, chin, cheeks, lips, nostrils, or whatever body part and prevents communication.
Yes, it’s tough. The world is deprived of your physical beauty for now. But the pandemic will eventually end. So someday everyone will get to see the gift that is the bottom half of your face again. Plus, you could always Zoom your face and plaster it on Instagram for now.
If you are worried about communication, your mask is not a cone of silence. Most materials that are breathable can still transmit sound. You can still talk through a mask. You can even purr through a mask.
Plus, communication is not all verbal, and it’s not all about your mouth. Gestures, body positioning, and gigantic flags can go a long way. You can also use your eyes to communicate. For example, you can blink in Morse code, “which aisle do you keep the haggis?”
9. The mask is a symbol of (fill in the blank).
Yes, surprise, surprise, the wearing of masks has been politicized, just like seemingly everything else over the past couple years. Wearing or refusing to wear a mask alone doesn’t mean that you belong or don’t belong to a certain club. Besides, belonging to the “Not Wearing a Mask Ever” club could be pretty boring:
Chair: “OK, in today’s meeting, we will discuss why you shouldn’t ever wear a mask. Secretary, do you have the minutes from the last meeting?”
Secretary: “Yes, we discussed why you shouldn’t ever wear a mask.”
Chair: “Thank you. What’s on the docket for the next meeting?”
Secretary: “We will be discussing why shouldn’t ever wear a mask.”
Chair: “Great. OK, about this wearing a mask thing…”
If you are genuinely worried that wearing a mask will somehow “out you” or show that you are not part of a certain club, just wear other things to show that you still belong to that club, such as a hat.
Here the Governor of North Dakota Doug Burgum (R) emphasizes that wearing or refusing to wear masks is not about making an ideological or political statement:
10. Mask advice keeps changing.
No, it hasn’t really changed that much. Different politicians have been saying different things along the way. Mixed signals continue to come out of the White House. But what has been coming from real scientific and public health experts in relevant fields has been in general relatively consistent with one evolution.
Back in February, public health officials were advising against non-health care workers from hoarding a special kind of mask: the N95 masks. At the time, a number of people who weren’t health care workers were trying to wear N95 masks regularly to protect themselves, which was problematic for several different reasons. One was that it further exacerbated a shortage of N95 masks for health care workers. If there were enough N95 masks to go around, non-health workers wearing the masks would have been less of problem. Secondly, many people were wearing the masks improperly such as not creating a real seal with their faces, using the masks well beyond their effective lifetimes, and touching the outsides of the masks with their fingers and faces. All of this could potentially increase one’s risk of getting infected above and beyond not wearing a mask.
Here, in the video accompanying this tweet, Neil Floch, MD, a surgeon and Director of Minimally Invasive and Bariatric Surgery at Norwalk Hospital in Norwalk, Connecticut, explains the precautions needed when using a mask:
Thirdly, wearing an N95 mask may have created a false sense of security for folks so that they weren’t doing other important infection control measures such as hand washing, social distancing, and cleaning and disinfecting surfaces. Finally, it has always been emphasized that wearing masks that aren’t certified as N95 will not really protect you that much. The virus can still get through material that is too porous and doesn’t have all the built-in protections that real N95 masks have, which I have detailed for Forbes.
However, one thing has evolved over time. Studies have suggested that the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV2) is more contagious through the air and hangs in the air for longer periods of time than initially thought. Experiments have also shown how many fluid droplets you can expel when simply talking, as I have covered for Forbes.
That’s why public health officials, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as Tara Haelle described for Forbes, are now recommending that you wear masks or some other type of facial covering while in public locations that may involve you mixing more closely with others. Again, wearing a face covering is mainly to protect others from you in case you are infected and don’t know it. A face covering may catch fluid droplets coming from your nose and mouth that can carry the virus.
The Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic has continued to unmask many underlying problems in our society, ones that existed way before the pandemic began. And one of them has been politicizing decisions and policies that should really be driven by science.