10 Valid Reasons to Wear a Mask
The COVID-19 pandemic has been raging through North America for over four months now. And, unfortunately, it’s not showing signs of stopping any time soon. But while researchers are working around the clock to find a vaccine, there’s one thing each and every one of us can do to stop the spread: Wear a mask.
While some people view wearing a mask as a political statement, it’s really no more political than putting on a shirt in the morning — although it’s arguably more important. At the current time, we don’t have many weapons for battling COVID. There’s no vaccine. There’s no cure. Treatment is spotty. But for $5, you can protect yourself, your family, your friends, and your community just by wearing a mask.
And, as a reminder, when we say “wearing a mask,” we mean covering your mouth and nose. We know it can be uncomfortable, but if you choose not to cover your nose, you might as well not wear one at all. That’s because if you’re not covering your nose and mouth, you’re greatly reducing the efficacy of your mask. You might even be rendering it useless. So, remember: Cover up!
Still not totally convinced? Or maybe there’s someone in your life who’s still refusing to mask up? Here are 10 reasons why you (and they) should be wearing a mask. Hopefully one resonates.
- You don’t know if you have COVID-19.
The number one reason you should be wearing a mask is that you just don’t know if you have the virus. Research has shown that most people are contagious for a couple of days before they start showing symptoms, if they start showing symptoms at all. During that time, a mask protects the people around you from the virus that’s present in the microscopic drops of water that you expel when you breath out.
Think about how terrible it would feel to know that you’d been walking around infecting people for days — and there was something simple you could have done to prevent it. What if that person is your parent? Or the person who works at your local grocery store? Or your barista? Wearing a mask protects the people in your everyday life who deserve to stay healthy, just like you do.
- You don’t know if the people around you have COVID-19.
On the flip side, there’s no way for you to know who around you has the virus. Just like you could be spreading it without knowing it, so could they. And while social distancing is effective, the virus might be able to spread up to 20 feet. Yikes! A mask protects you from the people around you who aren’t being as considerate as you are.
And if you’re thinking, well, I’m not really part of an at-risk population — like maybe you’re still pretty young and don’t have any pre-existing conditions — then now’s the time to remember that a recent UCSF study found that one in three young people were at risk of developing severe COVID-19. Not such great odds, right? Plus, there are still so many unknowns about who the virus affects and how that it just doesn’t seem like a risk that’s worth taking.
- Wearing a mask reduces viral load exposure.
There’s also some evidence that the amount of the virus you’re exposed to — or the “viral load” — determines how sick you get. So if someone around you has COVID-19 and, say, sneezes within six feet of you, the mask could protect you from the majority of their viral load. That means you might still get sick, but you could have minor symptoms instead of severe ones. Wearing a mask could be the difference between feeling icky for a few days and winding up on a respirator.
- It’s a sign you care for your community.
In many Asian countries, people have been wearing masks when they’re sick for years and years. It’s considered a common courtesy, and a visible symbol that you care about your community. These days, the whole world is following this example and showing each other that we care about our communities by wearing a mask when we go outside.
Think about this image: You’re walking toward someone and their mask is around their neck. When they realize they’re going to pass you, they pull it up to cover their mouth and nose. How do you feel? You probably feel grateful, right?
Seeing someone else wearing a mask or pulling it up to cover their mouth and nose as you approach them on the street is really heartening. And in this moment, don’t we all need more of that?
- It’s scientifically shown to slow the spread.
While the experts waffled on mask wearing a bit in the beginning (and we really can’t blame them — there are so many unknowns), it’s now been shown now that people wearing masks definitely does slow the spread of COVID-19. The virus, it turns out, is primarily airborne. That means if someone carrying it breathes in your vicinity without a mask, you’re at risk of picking it up from the air around you.
Anyone who watched the news in horror as the virus rampaged Italy, killing thousands of civilians and health care professionals in a short amount of time, knows that slowing the spread means reducing the death rate and freeing up much-needed (and rare) hospital equipment. It’s the difference between a very scary situation and a total nightmare.
- So kids can go back to school.
Parents who have been stuck at home with their kids are begging you — please wear a mask! Juggling a job, childcare, schooling, and entertaining children has taken the skill of a top-level circus performer and parents are ready to put down a couple of balls.
But if people don’t wear masks, then the virus will continue to spread, unabated. And if that happens, then parents won’t feel safe sending their children to school — even if the schools do reopen. So whether you’re a parent or just know that your family and friends who are parents are starting to lose it, wear a mask so that kids can go back to school sooner and safer.
- So small businesses can open or stay open.
Don’t you miss going to your local restaurants? Popping quickly into a store to browse? Grabbing a beer with a friend? We all do too! Wearing a mask means that those local businesses you love can either stay open or re-open sooner. By slowing the spread, you’re quickening the time to when our local economies can fully reopen and get buzzing again.
Plus, local businesses reopening will be a major boost to the economy, which is in danger of plummeting into a recession the longer the pandemic goes on. We need people out there supporting their local businesses! Not only are you keeping your community alive and thriving, you’re also helping ensure that the entire economy doesn’t tank, leading to even more widespread suffering.
- Because we’re all going a little stir crazy.
Even if your region has lifted some of the initial restrictions on where you can go and who you can see, everyone is still living in some version of social distancing. And that’s going to be the case for a while. While it’s tempting to just throw caution to the wind and hug all of your friends again, not taking precautions will only prolong the situation we’re already in. That means fewer hugs; fewer hangs; fewer drinks with friends. And who can even imagine going out dancing again??
You get the idea. The only way our governments are going to feel comfortable lifting restrictions is if people are complying with mask rules and the virus is spreading more slowly. So if you’re starting to feel pretty stir crazy, hang in there. We’re all hanging in there with you.
- They look cool!
One of the unexpected upsides of having to wear a mask is that there are a lot of cool ones out there. From high end designers like Cristian Siriano to at-home sewists whipping up originals, the COVID mask is undoubtedly 2020’s most interesting new fashion accessory. If you like to dress up and love matching your accessories to your outfits, then buying a bunch of (usually really cheap!) masks is actually really fun!
And, as a bonus, you’re saving on make-up. Because, let’s face it, you really only have to do your eyes. Forget all of that foundation — and who’s even thinking about putting on lipstick? You can redirect those funds to awesome masks and give your skin a break!
- It’s our best solution.
And, finally, wearing a mask is our best solution for combatting COVID-19 — at least for now. As researchers work to find a vaccine and health care workers battle to keep patients alive, isn’t it the least the rest of us can do? We sure think it is.