To Mask or Not to Mask: Your Decision

Mask
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MAY 19: Medical workers stand outside NYU Langone Health hospital as people applaud to show their gratitude to medical staff and essential workers during the coronavirus pandemic on May 19, 2020 in New York City. COVID-19 has spread to most countries around the world, claiming over 324,000 lives with over 4.9 million infections reported. (Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images)

Preventative action is more efficient than reactive action and is the case with the novel Coronavirus. Without a vaccine, and with testing limited, some say the best way to ward it off is through social distancing and adding Personal Protective Equipment, or PPE, to the daily routine. Given the inconvenience, the Western world is asking itself: to mask or not to mask?

To Mask or Not to Mask?

There are two schools of thought on this subject, with many citing “freedom” as their reason for not wearing the equipment suggested by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. America is the land of the free and the brave, without a doubt. But freedom does not equal a pass on human decency. Freedom requires discipline and personal responsibility. Freedom calls for improvisation and moving beyond individual wants. Something many American companies have already adapted to.

Mask Culture Meets the West

After discouraging the use of masks by the general public, the CDC has retracted that statement. Instead, they discourage the use of surgical grade masks, which should be left for medical professionals in their daily work. The general public should buy or make cloth masks to slow down the spread of germs from one to another, and voluntarily wear them when going outside of the home. It is important that these masks are removed once home and washed between each use. Handwashing with hot water and detergent is a perfectly acceptable option for any without access to a washing machine. Remembering to sanitize surfaces in the home regularly, is also important.

After handling the germ-infested mask, remember to sanitize hands with hand sanitizer, or better yet, with soap and water for 20 seconds. If that feels too long, start providing “quarantine concerts” for the whole household to enjoy, and the time will fly. A great example to follow is that of medical professionals, who use PPE on a daily basis. It takes 21 days to form a habit. These newly formed habits will help eliminate the daily threat of the virus and improve overall hygiene discipline.

Mask culture has been the norm in Japan since the 1918 Spanish Flu, which killed between 257,000 and 481,000 people in the country. It has now made its way to the Western world and comes with more than just the benefit of minimizing the spread of germs. They protect those with allergies from dust and pollen and even provide a social shield for those dealing with social anxiety. Regardless of their practicality, it’s equally important to remove them and permit the body time to breathe freely. Do this when alone or when commuting from one place to the next in a vehicle. To avoid run-ins with security personnel, eye contact and head nods can be helpful as everyone adjusts to this “new normal”. Stay safe, stay mindful, stay respectful.

Other Types of PPE

Personal Protective Equipment doesn’t stop at masks. Gloves and face shields are also helpful tools for keeping the germs at bay. Eyes are wide open targets for all kinds of irritants, even with glasses over them. If engaging with strangers on a regular day to day basis, it is a good investment. Remember to disinfect it daily so it can keep doing it’s job.

On the other hand, gloves are not fit for multi-use and they should be disposed of immediately after being removed. Opinions on glove use vary, and the CDC primarily suggests them when cleaning and when caring for a sick person. When they are not changed frequently enough, they transfer just as many germs as an un-gloved hand. Early claims of Covid-19 spreading by gas pumps have been debunked, but ongoing research continues to help pinpoint just how this invisible terrorist is getting around. “This is a respiratory virus, and respiratory viruses largely spread through breathing in infected respiratory droplets,” says Dr. Amesh A. Adalja, senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.

Abstinence-Only Approach

Choosing not to wear a mask does not make a person “bad”. Just as wearing a mask does not invite racism or xenophobia, which has been the case in the last few months. Everyone has different life circumstances and everyone has the freedom to choose what is best for them. By the same token, everyone else deserves the same respect to do what they feel is best for their own good. With global stress at an all-time high, arguments over mask-wearing should not enter day to day living. Maintain the suggested 6 feet and stay aware of respiratory droplets, the primary carrier of the infectious disease.

A less fearful way to approach the situation is in viewing the virus as a type of “contrast material”, highlighting the areas of American culture that can use improving. Staying in lanes, maintaining personal hygiene, and being considerate of others. In the end, America will be great again.

Main Image: Embed from Getty Images

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