Uncomfortable? Inconvenient? A social downer? YES, but they save lives!
The controversy concerning the wearing of face masks during the present Covid-19 pandemic continues. Most science reports are clear: wearing fabric face masks helps protect others from any virus you might encounter.
They afford little protection for you if someone else is spreading the virus. Sadly, there is also a social stigma and unreasoning fear when black people wear masks – but that’s an entirely different issue.
In some parts of the country, people consider the wearing of masks symbolizes some sort of reduction of the American freedoms they are so proud of. One saw that attitude in the demonstrators in Michigan, and unfortunately here in Philadelphia as well. One also sees it among public figures from our president on down through his administration.
The decisive reality, for me, is that that people, including me and, God forbid you yourself, may be infected with the Covid-19 virus and have no symptoms – no fever, no shaking, no coughing, no chest congestion! People without symptoms may breathe or cough the tiny virus particles in the air without knowing it. And, so may I (which is why I’ve lived under quarantine in my senior retirement center for the past 5 weeks!)
Some masks do a better job of filtering out the virus droplets than others: The best ones used by our health professionals and hospitals stop 95 percent of them (which is why they are called “N95’s”). But cloth masks of any kind and especially those combined with paper filters do protect friends, loved ones, and people you pass in buildings and on the street if you are a virus carrier.
Reducing disease spread then requires two things: first, limiting contacts with infected individuals. This is why physical distancing is so important! Second, it’s the wearing of face coverings – masks of some sort. Public mask-wearing is most effective at stopping the spread of the virus when compliance is high: The more people who wear masks, the more everyone is protected.
Some commentators feel that wearing masks impairs our quality of life. They like to feel fresh air on our faces and talk to people while being able to see people’s expressions, their smiles. And we know that facial expressions are an important part of non-verbal communication.
On the other hand, wearing a face mask tells others that you care about them, and this is a vital message when we are all under so much pressure!