Face masks and social stigma

To wear the mask, or not wear the mask.  That is the question.

Last month an announcement was made by the U.S. surgeon general that advised Amercians to not wear surgical face masks and to stop buying them, indicating that masks were not an effective means of protecting yourself from acquiring the COVID-19 coronavirus.  But this announcement was made before any cases of community spread had been reported. The surgeon general went on to say that masks were most beneficial for sick people for preventing the spread of the virus and that medical professionals were in danger of not having masks because of dwindling supplies.

But the fact is that masks DO work.  Even a basic surgical mask that isn’t sealed like the N95 rated masks are effective at filtering out larger respiratory droplets.  And common sense tells us that some protection is always better than none. Especially when coming into contact with potentially sick individuals personal protection becomes paramount.  But should you wear a mask as part of your every day routine?

One reason that Americans are reluctant to wear masks is the social stigma associated with wearing them.  Not being able to see someone’s face can be a little off putting. It can be challenging to hear someone speak or interpret their tone when you can’t see their face or lips move.  You can’t tell if they are sad, happy, or angry with you. And let’s face it, masks just look weird. So if we are self-isolating then why bother wearing them?

One good reason is that it isn’t possible to self-isolate completely.  We are still around family members and loved ones and perhaps even children.  Wearing a mask can be as much or even more for their benefit than our own. Also, situations may arise where you need to visit the doctor, the grocery store, the bank, or even the hospital.  It would be a good idea to have a mask on hand when those situations arise. You certainly don’t want to need a mask and not have one when the time comes.

As far as masks and social stigma are concerned, the more people that are wearing masks will make it generally more acceptable for others to wear a mask.  People tend to follow trends and if we can encourage a trend of wearing masks as acceptable, then others will follow.

Masks are also available in different colors and styles, for those of us that are more fashion conscious.  This respirator mask, for example, comes in 6 different colors including pink and purple.  Why not make a fashion statement out of it?

For those of us that refuse to wear masks, there are other forms of protection.  Check out this protection poncho that comes with a detachable hood and face mask.  This let’s your face be seen clearly and still gives you some protection.  For extra safety, you can even wear a face mask underneath it.

Once life gets back to normal and businesses open back up, the threat of the virus will still be there.  Seeing more people use masks every day even when we are not experiencing an outbreak may become normal, just like it has been in many Asian countries for several years.  Mask stigma is not something that should prevent us from protecting ourselves and our families.