Since the pandemic’s onset, the web has been flooded with videos of arguments between ‘mask wearers’ and ‘non-mask wearers.’ Though aggression does not lead to a solution, the anger of some can be justified. Knowing the dangers of COVID-19, it can be frustrating when individuals refuse to wear a mask. Even more so, since not wearing a mask puts more than the individual in harm’s way. As COVID-19 cases rise again and we approach ‘flu season,’ it is important to remember why we need masks and how much they genuinely help.
The Center for Disease Control states that “masks are most likely to reduce the spread of COVID-19 when they are widely used.” This statement has been drawn after experiments showing that a proper face mask can help block minuscule droplets, between 20 to 500 micrometers in size, that we release when speaking. Even more so, a recent study done by Health Affairs showed that in 15 states where a mask mandate had been enforced, the daily case rate began to decline. Their research also estimates that between 230,000-450,000 cases may have been prevented by May 22 due to the mask mandate. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the United States’ leading immunologist, reinforced these estimates when he stated that the widespread use of masks could “bring the spread of Covid-19 under control.” COVID-19 virus has already taken over 200,000 lives; wearing a mask will prevent future deaths by preventing cases. These numbers and estimates all prove one thing: masks work.
All these facts prove null and void when we see our leaders, like our president, denouncing them. Though President Trump has recently changed his rhetoric on masks, his actions speak louder than his words. He attends rallies without a mask and speaks openly to a crowd that also seems to be of individuals who don’t wear masks. He bashes former Vice President Joe Biden for choosing to wear a mask so often, deeming him an individual with “some big issues.” President Trump is no stranger to making harmful statements, but being anti-mask has proved to be especially dangerous since we now know how strong of a defense masks provide, as well as how many cases can be prevented due to masks. There is one aspect in which President Trump is correct: there are a few problems with masks regarding how people handle them.
Masks are our best defense against COVID-19, but only if they are worn properly. Masks work when we keep them securely over our nose and mouth, keeping in mind that the germs we are protecting ourselves from can still be on our hands and the surface of our masks. As such, we must remember to continue to wash our hands. We wear masks not just because we’ve been told, but also because science – fact-based science – has shown they curb the spread. We wear masks for the same reasons we follow laws regarding automobiles and drive safely: to protect ourselves and those around us.
Many people believe they are exempt from wearing masks because they are young and less likely to be harmed by the disease. This thinking is dangerous, for it has not been proven that anyone is entirely safe from COVID-19, its symptoms nor its long-term effects. Indeed, the observation of ‘Post-COVID Syndrome’ shows that COVID-19 has lasting effects and may have some that we don’t yet know. We all want life to go back to some semblance of normalcy, but that will not occur if the threat of this disease looms over us like a darkened cloud. For those who can wear masks, I pose this: if wearing masks bring us even one step closer to a world where we can live without fear of harming ourselves or those around us, we should wear masks. A state of slight discomfort is worthwhile if it can help curb the spread of this disease that has taken experiences, time and lives.