By Kyra Alvarez for The Due Influence
Working as a barista in a local coffee shop introduced me to all the different mask wearers: “the free nose,” “the hanging off the ear,” “the chin masker,” or even “the mask-in-hand.” One particular customer came in, implementing the “hanging off the ear.” I asked him why he couldn’t put the ear loop around his other ear, so he could wear it. After all, having a mask and not wearing it serves no purpose. Maybe he felt a sense of security by having the mask in his vicinity. He responded with how he wears a mask for hours on end at his workplace, and didn’t think it was necessary to wear it when there was only one other customer. I took a deep breath, and sighed under my own mask, which I was wearing for “hours on end” by the way. I handed him his coffee, and he slipped the mask on over his chin, not covering any part of his face. He must’ve been embarrassed, and yet refused to wear the mask correctly. Some part of me wished I didn’t serve him.
The mask served as a safety blanket, in the same way we would carry a sweater around. If it gets cold, we put the sweater on. However, if we treat mask-wearing as a trend, and not as a health measure, the seriousness of wearing them disappears. Masks are not an all-in-one cure for COVID-19, or any illness for that matter. They are meant to serve as a preventative measure against droplets released from the nose and mouth. Going in public without a mask is turning into the same shame that is associated with going out naked. We best get used to it for the long run.
In reality, COVID-19 has been hanging in the air for much longer than anticipated. We expected it to magically disappear in a few months, but everyone around the world is still experiencing repercussions from the pandemic. People are losing jobs, others are getting sick, professionals are working from home, and kids are attending school remotely. Our lives have changed drastically since the start of the pandemic, and it’s existence isn’t going to be easy to get rid of.
So why are people so combative against wearing a mask? People can be resistant to change, or maybe the piece of cloth threatens their sense of freedom. Though it could be considered a nuisance to cover the second half of the face, we should consider the reason we are wearing one. Due to COVID’s sneaky nature, it could be spread by people who do not have symptoms. Masks don’t serve as protection only for the wearer, but for the surrounding people. Imagine if you have the virus, and you're going around mask-less, or wearing it incorrectly. You would be spreading the virus without warrant, and sensitive people could end up in the hospital… just because you refused to wear a mask.
There is scientific evidence that masks do in fact work. Dean Blumberg, chief of pediatric infectious diseases at UC Davis Children’s Hospital said, “Everyone should wear a mask. People who say ‘I don’t believe masks work’ are ignoring scientific evidence. It’s not a belief system. It’s like saying, ‘I don’t believe in gravity.’” The risk of infection to the wearer is decreased by 65%, according to research conducted at UC.
So what type of precedent do we want to set for our children? How about our respected elders, who are at risk of contracting the disease more than anyone? Just by simply wearing a mask in the correct manner gives the impression that you care about others' health. We need to band together and remember that assimilating to a new normal is not a hegemonic decree. It’s boiled down to the simple respect and regard we have for others.