More on mask madness

File:Zo Omna no mask-MA 3254-IMG 9019-white.jpg - Wikimedia Commons


The Great Divide between the masked and the unmasked has widened and the battleground has gotten bloodier of late. Those on both sides have escalated from disagreement to argument to nastiness in a short period of time, and I’m afraid it’s only going to get worse as public health officials say things like “The general public could be wearing masks for the next year.”

I unfriended a long-time Facebook acquaintance this week after she proclaimed that those who don’t wear a mask in public should be “arrested for murder.” There have been videos posted of a gang of at least ten mask-wearers harassing and shouting hateful remarks at an unmasked woman in a supermarket. Others have reported being publicly ridiculed for wearing masks.

In the immortal words of Rodney King, why can’t we all just get along?

Seriously, it doesn’t have to be this way. Here’s a novel idea: let those who want to wear masks wear them, let those who don’t want to wear them go without them and if either of those conditions scares you, keep your anti-social distance from those people and go about your business.

No, no, no — I can hear (many of) the mask-wearers now — it’s not your body, your choice when it affects somebody else’s life!!! (always with at least three exclamation marks).

We’ll put aside for a moment the deeper ramifications of that statement and the cognitive dissonance it must create for many of those who are now adopting that position. The fact is: me not wearing a mask is not putting you in any danger whatsoever, other than the danger that your media-driven phobia will cause you psychic pain.

Because a) the masks that so many are wearing out there “in the wild” do practically nothing to protect the wearer or those around him/her, and b) even if I were shedding COVID everywhere I go, you can actually protect yourself by staying six feet or more away. Believe me, I have no desire to get up close and personal with you, anyway.

But the debate rages on, with some of the bare-faced calling the covered ones “snowflakes” or “maskholes” and some of the mask-wearers saying the unveiled are reckless, selfish, unreasonable, and (in their eyes the ultimate insult) “don’t believe in science.”

There’s a lot of irony in that. Because no, Virginia, it’s not just “uneducated, ignorant Trump lovers” who are saying cloth masks are basically useless against viruses. This is from no less reputable a source than the New England Journal of Medicine:

“We know that wearing a mask outside health care facilities offers little, if any, protection from infection …
“In many cases, the desire for widespread masking is a reflexive reaction to anxiety over the pandemic.”

And even when it comes to hospitals/healthcare settings, and in the context of medical-grade masks rather than the ridiculous cloth things most laypeople are wearing:

“What is clear, however, is that universal masking alone is not a panacea. A mask will not protect providers caring for a patient with active Covid-19 if it’s not accompanied by meticulous hand hygiene, eye protection, gloves, and a gown. A mask alone will not prevent health care workers with early Covid-19 from contaminating their hands and spreading the virus to patients and colleagues. Focusing on universal masking alone may, paradoxically, lead to more transmission of Covid-19 if it diverts attention from implementing more fundamental infection-control measures.”

Finally, we get to the crux of the matter and the real reason for mask-wearing that applies even more so to the general population:

“It is also clear that masks serve symbolic roles. Masks are not only tools, they are also talismans that may help increase health care workers’ perceived sense of safety, well-being, and trust in their hospitals.”

[NEJM May 21, 2020, “Universal Masking in Hospitals in the COVID-19 Era”]

Science - Handwriting image

So to those who complain that not wearing a mask is “ignoring the science” and “putting others in danger” and that we should “be arrested for murder,” please STFU. You are welcome to wear your symbolic talisman if it makes you feel safer, but I don’t need a placebo (facebo) to increase my PERCEIVED sense of well-being.

There are plenty of reasons to wear a mask. If you have allergies and are in a polluted area, masks can actually help protect against those particles, which are much larger than viruses. If you’re performing surgery, or working with someone with a compromised immune system, of course you should wear a mask — primarily to protect the patient from BACTERIA, which are also much larger than viruses. If you’re sick, or you’re the one with the compromised immune system and you think a mask will help, by all means do what makes you feel more protected.

Mask Cyborg Face - Free image on Pixabay

And if you like masks as a fashion statement, go for it — it’s less annoying than many other fashion fads. If you want some measure of anonymity in public, a mask might afford you a little of that. If you’re planning to rob a bank, sure — covering your face is both traditional and useful in that situation.

If wearing a mask, like carrying around a security blanket or a favorite teddy bear, makes you feel better, I have no problem with that. Just please stop with the virtue signaling and the bashing of those who have studied the real science and please drop the ridiculous slogans like “mask it or casket.” That (not the mask on your face) is what makes you look stupid.

About debshinder

Technology analyst and author, specializing in enterprise security. Author of or contributor to over 25 books, including "Scene of the Cybercrime." Fourteen-year Microsoft MVP, married to Microsoft FTE Tom Shinder, and proud mom of two wonderful grown-up human children and three amazing Japanese Chin pups. In my spare time, I love to travel - especially on cruise ships - and write about my grand adventures.
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