It's Not Debatable, Masks Save Lives––It's Time For A National Mandate

by Christine Organ
Originally Published: 

We recently reached yet another grim milestone: we surpassed 11 million coronavirus cases and a record number of hospitalizations. With cases continue to rise at staggering rates, hospitalizations and fatalities are likely to rise as well. Health care professionals describe horrifying working conditions due to short-staffed medical facilities. The health care system is literally breaking right before our eyes. It’s terrifying and devastating – and likely to get even worse.

What’s made all of this more upsetting is that it could have been prevented. Experts have been telling us for several months to wear a damn mask, keep six feet distance, and stop gathering in crowds. Historians have been telling us about the devastating second wave of the 1918 flu pandemic that spread like wildfire in the fall of 1918 after an already brutal spring wave. Medical experts have been telling us that the fall and winter would be a one-two punch with COVID-19 and influenza risks. And we’ve known that even small gatherings indoors, without masks and social distance can be dangerous – or even deadly.

We’ve known all of this. We were told what we needed to do to stop the spread. And we failed.

We failed miserably.

By now, if you’re not on board with the masking up, you aren’t just selfish, you’re ignorant AF. The data is out there, and it’s undisputable. Research shows that those states that passed mask mandates early on slowed the spread of COVID-19 as soon as the mandate was passed. Even in those cases where a face masks doesn’t stop infection, some experts suggest face masks may reduce the severity of COVID-19 by reducing the viral load.

Heck, even if the efficacy of face masks were in doubt (it’s not), what’s the worst that could happen? You keep your face covered for a few months. If you don’t wear one? You could kill yourself and others. It’s as simple as that.

All of this is why President-Elect Biden is calling for a national mask mandate.

Of course, Trumpers are seizing on this. But FREEDOM, they scream. LIBERTY. YOU CAN’T MAKE ME.

Whether a national mask mandate could survive legal challenge is certainly up for debate. But whether or not it could be legally required isn’t the issue. It’s about common decency.

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Listen, folks: it’s one thing if you want to put your own life at risk, but it’s next-level selfishness to put the lives of others – including family and friends – at risk.

“There are lots of things we do because there is a community expectation of civil behaviors: No shoes, no service. Clean up after your dog. Many of these are even codified in city ordinances,” Dr. Scott Gottlieb wrote in an opinion article published in The Wall Street Journal.

Not to mention that face masks aren’t the first time we’ve been asked to do something for public health and safety. We can’t light up a cigarette on an airline. Seat belts are required. Traffic laws are commonplace and welcome. And to anyone suggesting that face masks shouldn’t be required, I’m guessing you wouldn’t be cool with drunk drivers allowed to just drive all of God’s green Earth because, you know, it’s their “right.”

No one is suggesting that we need to make face masks permanent; these precautions are just to get us through a crisis. With news of not one but two vaccines on the horizon, we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. But getting there is gonna be pretty freaking treacherous. So stop being a selfish jerk and put on your damn face mask.

It isn’t just President-Elect Biden begging Americans to wear face masks either. Just about every medical and public health professional is sounding the alarm and pleading with Americans to wear a mask, among other safety measures.

According to The New York Times, over the past week, several prominent public health experts – including Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease specialist, and Dr. Scott Gottlieb, a former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration under President Trump — have said it is time to seriously consider a national mask mandate to help slow the spread of the virus.

In a study published last month in the journal Nature, researchers at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington estimated that “universal mask use” — which is defined as 95 percent of people wearing masks in public — could prevent nearly 130,000 COVID-related deaths between now and next spring. Currently, IHME estimates that only 67% of Americans wear masks.

Even the current administration’s own Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued an urgent alert telling everyone to wear a mask.

In fact, the CDC recently updated its guidance to confirm that masks also provide some protection to the wearer, in addition to protecting those around. Additionally – and importantly – the CDC also explicitly states that a face mask is not a substitute for social distancing, and that masks should be work in addition to staying at least six feet apart.

Earlier this month, in a scientific brief, the CDC confirmed that “universal masking policies can help avert future lockdowns, especially if combined with other non-pharmaceutical interventions such as social distancing, hand hygiene, and adequate ventilation.”

It’s pretty simple: Wear a mask. Keep six feet of distance. Avoid large crowds. Wash your hands. Stay home if you can.

In other words, don’t be a selfish jerk. But since so many of y’all can’t manage that, a national mask mandate might be what we need.

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