We’re four months into the global pandemic brought on by coronavirus, and sometimes it feels like we’re still in the first month. Mainly because some people are pretending that nothing is wrong. Of course, that’s also the fault of our inept government, but there’s plenty of reliable, scientific information out there to illustrate just how serious this is. And yet, here we are, four months in and people are not wearing masks when they leave the house. The longer this goes on, the more it bothers me, and I can’t stay silent anymore.
I don’t want to be the person who yells at her friends about wearing masks. No, seriously. I spent the first two months of this rolling my eyes at those people. My thinking was, “people know they should be wearing masks. Yelling about it isn’t going to do anything.” And I’m right about that for sure. People do know that they need to be wearing a mask. And yet, they come up with every excuse and reason to not be wearing one. That’s what’s making me into that person who yells at others about the freaking masks.
By now, we all know the point of wearing masks. It’s well documented, and if you are still having trouble, I don’t know what to tell you. But we know that wearing a mask keeps everyone safe. Wearing them when you leave the house is the easiest thing you can do to assure you stay healthy. Most people get this logically, and yet, they still allow themselves to be seen without a mask on their face. I don’t know if that’s ballsy or idiotic at this point. It’s certainly entitled, careless and selfish.
After this many months we’re all trying to find some semblance of “normal” life. And it’s summer, so of course we want to be outside. Social distancing is a lot easier when you’re outdoors, and that leads to a certain false sense of security. Yes, being outside does lessen the risk of catching COVID-19. But wearing masks is still incredibly important, because it can be difficult to maintain six feet from others, especially if you are in a crowded outside area, or anywhere where you may easily come into contact with others.
As Dr. Aaron Hamilton explains, in a Q &A for the Cleveland Clinic,“If you’re going to be around others, either in a crowd or in a situation where it will be difficult to maintain that six foot distance from others, you should wear a mask. That’s especially true if you’ll be doing any exercise or activity in which you might be breathing heavier than normal, thus possibly propelling those droplets from your mouth further than the usual distance.”
“The most effective way to prevent the spread of the virus is to combine mask-wearing with social distancing,” he adds.
“But I have my mask right here next to me,” you may say as you sit outside under your beach umbrella. And yes, it’s good that you have your mask next to you. But if you aren’t in secluded location with no one around, you need to be wearing masks, not keeping them in your purse. What if someone comes up to talk to you and your mask isn’t on? What if you bump into a friend on the way out of the beach or on the way to the bathroom? There are so many opportunities for you to make contact with others outside — it’s silly not to be wearing a mask.
Unless you’re engaging in some sort of oral activity, you need to have your mask on your face. Even then, you should have it on unless you are actively drinking or putting food in your mouth. Otherwise it’s not doing anyone any good, right? Having a mask in your possession is crucial. But it needs to be on your face, not just shoved in your purse. Your bag doesn’t need protection from COVID-19, you do.
Not wearing masks when you’re not immediately around people may feel safe. But I assure you it isn’t. If you can see people and they can see you, assume they’re a threat. Of course, people with COVID shouldn’t be out and about doing things. But remember, people can be sick and asymptomatic or be experiencing symptoms and not relating it to COVID-19 yet. How would you feel knowing that someone like that was near you? They may be thinking the same thing you are. “Well, they’re all the way over there, I’m safe.” And you may very well be. But it doesn’t seem worth the risk, since there’s still so much we don’t know about how COVID-19 is transmitted.
Look, I’m not (totally) judging. I did the same thing once. I was out with my partner and some of her family and there was no one else near us at the park. Once we stopped wearing masks to eat, we just didn’t put them back on right away. We all knew we were taking a risk. I get the urge to take that risk. But I also know that we were paranoid for days afterward, and running through the potential consequences of spreading the virus through our family. So I don’t think those mask-free minutes were truly worth it.
It’s easy to say that if you’re not wearing masks outside to simply not share that with the world. But you know what else is easy? Wearing a fucking mask. In the grand scheme of things, having to wear a mask over your mouth and nostrils in public is not a big deal. At least you’ll still get to do some outdoor activities. If you think wearing a mask while doing those activities is worse than just staying in the house, then stay in the house and don’t do them.
Everyone keeps talking about “getting back to normal.” First of all, there’s no such thing as back to normal. Our lives are irrevocably changed by this pandemic. Secondly, the only way to be able to resume the activities we love the most is by everyone wearing masks for a while. Even the CDC says that if everyone wore a mask, we could get this pandemic under control in one or two months. If things are getting better, then we can responsibly have more freedom. The sooner we wear masks to do things, the sooner it will be safe to do those things mask-free, while not risking the lives of people in our communities.
Socially distancing with your friends outside while not wearing masks is not being responsible. Trust me, no one wants to be at happy hour with their friends more than me. But I understand there are things we can and must do right now to ensure we do not kill our loved ones. I definitely get panicky and short of breath wearing a mask sometimes. So you know what I do? I breathe through it if I’m already out. Or if I’m feeling overwhelmed, I stay home so I don’t have to wear a mask. My six-year-old hates wearing masks, but even he’s getting used to it. Because he’s beginning to understand that this is just going to be a part of our lives for the foreseeable future, and that if he would like to enjoy the outdoors, he’s going to need to cover his mouth and nose.
Look, wearing masks isn’t the way any of us thought we’d be living this year. But here we are. So we might as well lean into it and stop acting like not doing is some sort of prideful act of American liberty. It’s not. You want any semblance of your old life back? Put on a damn mask every time you leave the house. It’s that easy.