People are looking at me funny. In the gym, at the market, and even at work, they’re giving me the stink eye. Some point and laugh, others straight up try to shame me. Why?
…Because I wear a protective mask.
I get that it’s an unnerving sight. And I get wearing masks are not a foolproof protection against viruses. But you know what is more unnerving to me? Not wearing one a few feet away from someone coughing or sneezing.
So before I get back to people giving me crap about wearing a mask because it weirds them out, let’s get into this counter intuitive notion that masks don’t help or reduce the chance of catching a virus, whether airborne or those transmuted through respiratory particulates like the coronavirus (COVID-19).
Here is what the CDC says on their website, and please, read carefully.
“The CDC does NOT recommend the routine use of respirators (which is what they call masks) outside of workplace settings. Most often, the spread of respiratory viruses from person-to-person happens among close contact (within 6 feet).”
See where it takes some CAREFUL reading. They are not recommending masks “outside of workplaces” or close quarters. That means they are giving a lukewarm, halfway hidden approval of wearing them inside workspaces and other close quarters shared with other people.
So let’s not confuse the CDC “not recommending” you wear masks in public – meaning walking down the street – with the idea that wearing a mask doesn’t help at all. In close quarters, like “workplace settings,” it does help.
Here is what they say about the N95 filtering face-piece respirator, which is this mask, a common one (pictured below) available in many medical and hardware stores.
The CDC says “N95 respirators reduce the wearer’s exposure to airborne particles, from small particle aerosols to large droplets. N95 respirators are tight-fitting respirators that filter out at least 95% of particles in the air, including large and small particles, bacteria and viruses… achieving an adequate seal to the face is essential.”
So wearing a mask does in fact reduce particulates. Now, I’m not saying you all should wear masks, but I’m super stubborn about arguments, and it’s a continued insult to my intelligence that some non-medical experts keep mocking me for believing face mask barriers, fabric or otherwise, do provide at least some sort of obstacle course a virus must make its way through to arrive at your nostrils.
Some of you may intelligently ask- why does the CDC and other health experts sound like they are giving us mixed messages when they emphasize the masks are unnecessary in most public situations?
Because they’re trying to quell us from going overboard and buying up all the masks like we have done with toilet paper and hand sanitizer! Health officials don’t want a shortage of masks because they need to prioritize them for medical personnel. They even said so across various media outlets. Multiple CDC spokespeople have stated they worry about healthcare workers running out of these masks, which is a real issue. Here’s the thing folks, buy one mask, and only if you need to venture into close quarters with large groups. You don’t need ten masks each. Be responsible. If you don’t encounter large groups of people in close quarters, then don’t take these protective steps. We need to make sure healthcare officials have their supply.
I admit the stink eye I’m getting is kind of karmic, because in years past I’d totally get unnerved and even angry when I saw people wearing these surgical masks in public, like on an airplane, making me fearful they were sick with some deadly virus. But I get it now.
In the meantime, read all you can at the CDC website.