“No Mask. No Way. I Choose Freedom.”
Exactly what was this lady choosing? According to statistics, she was choosing COVID. She was choosing to help spread COVID. She was choosing to help COVID continue to mutate and form new variants. She was choosing to help COVID continue to kill.
As of this week, COVID has killed 982,371 people in the United States. Why would anyone choose to help COVID continue to kill? And yes, people are still dying. Just last week, there was an average of 661 recorded deaths caused by COVID per day. Yes, the numbers are down, but COVID is not over.
Many of those who have died were parents. That means that thousands of children no longer have a parent to help support and care for them. Nyesha Black, director of demographic research at the University of Alabama stated that:
“We will see the rippling effects of the pandemic on our society and the way it impacts individuals for generations….”
COVID is being listed as the third leading cause of death in the U.S., after heart disease and cancer.”
Why Would Anyone Choose to Support COVID?
Unfortunately, every time you choose not to wear a mask, when you choose not to get vaccinated, or when you choose to not get your booster shot, that is exactly what you are choosing to do. You may think you're supporting a political party or a particular politician, but in actuality, you are supporting COVID—and all of its many variants. And COVID is a killer.
A September 2021 ABC News and Washington Post poll showed that vaccination and masking predict whether people will die of COVID:
“Unvaccinated Americans are several times more likely to be hospitalized and die…. For unvaccinated Americans, the decision to not wear a mask or follow other restrictions, ultimately caused increased transmission [of COVID], which in turn, resulted in more severe outcomes … [in] the 10 states with the lowest percentage of full vaccinations, death rates were almost twice as high as that of states with the highest vaccination rates….”
Is It Really That Difficult to Wear A Mask?
I was at a medical facility this past week that clearly requires all staff and patients to wear masks. There were signs covering the walls, in the hallway, and even on the chairs, saying to please keep your mask on at all times. Yet, one lady sat in the waiting room with her mask dangling from her ear but nowhere near her mouth or nose. She became furious when she was asked to put her mask back on. She even admitted that she was immunocompromised. In the lab at the same facility, a man walked in with a mask on, sat down, and immediately took his mask off and put it in his pocket. Why? He was at least polite when asked to put his mask back on.
Why Is It so Difficult for Some People to Give in and Wear a Mask?
Steven C. Hayes, Ph.D., psychologist and professor at the University of Nevada, is the author of the popular book, Get Out of Your Mind and Into Your Life. His research and work has demonstrated how “language and thought can lead to human suffering.” In a recent Psychology Today article, he outlined several reasons for people refusing to wear masks. He said:
“…the science is clear: Wearing a mask is an effective measure to stop the spread of the virus (and research has shown that any concern about not being able to breathe properly is unfounded and untrue).
“Wearing a mask is a necessary discomfort to slow the spread of the virus, and to prevent thousands of unnecessary deaths. And yet plenty of people continue not wearing one. They may refuse because it’s uncomfortable, for political reasons, because other people are not wearing one, because …. And even if people wear a mask, they often do it improperly, covering only their mouth but not their nose, thus making the mask more or less obsolete…. When you walk into an enclosed public space, you are better off with a mask. I know I’m not the first to tell you this, and I will not be the last. Almost everyone understands it at this point, and yet plenty of people continue to not wear a mask—even against their own self-interest.”
Dr. Hayes went on to propose two ideas for getting people to wear masks.
Step 1: Know why it is important for you to wear a mask.
“The more you know why wearing a mask is important for you, the more you are going to act accordingly, and put on the piece of cloth. You have already heard plenty of reasons, but it’s important you find the one that matters most to you. Maybe you wish to protect your grandpa. Maybe you wish to be seen as caring. Knowing your why can be truly powerful, and it becomes even stronger still if you connect it to something bigger than yourself.”
Step 2: Empower yourself to do something for others.
“There are still many mysteries in the field of psychology, but after decades as a scientist and therapist, I can assure you: The more you allow yourself to feel uncomfortable in the service of what is important to you, the better your quality of life will be. In other words, by allowing yourself to feel the discomfort of wearing a mask, the more you empower yourself to do what matters to you, and the easier you will be wearing this mask.”
Dr. Hayes goes on to say:
“Life itself asks us to learn not to turn away from what is painful or difficult and instead to turn toward our fears, doubts, and discomforts in order to live a life full of meaning and purpose. And you can practice this skill right here and now, just by covering your face with a small piece of fabric.”
Dr. Hayes makes an excellent point that sometimes we need to step beyond our own self-interests and think of the needs of others. This is an excellent article, and I encourage you to read it in its entirety.
Are You Sure People Still Need to Wear a Mask?
But wait, you may be saying, many people are saying that we no longer need to wear a mask. Wrong. You still need to wear a mask because masks provide an extra level of protection. Only about 65% of the people in the United States have been vaccinated, and only 50% of those who are eligible have received a booster shot. Vaccines are the best way to protect yourself and others from COVID, but masks provide a second level of protection.
Likewise, Dr. Anthony Fauci reminds us that:
“The Omicron subvariant BA.2 is more transmissible than regular Omicron, so more people are likely to get it…. The risk of getting the Omicron variant is significantly higher for people not yet vaccinated. The easiest way to prevent [a surge] is to continue to get people vaccinated."
So, yes, you still need to wear a mask because most people who are unvaccinated also do not bother to wear a mask. Wearing a mask as well as being vaccinated and boosted provides the best protection from COVID.
Every state has now removed its mask requirements. COVID is free to spread, especially among the unvaccinated. Yet, even for those who are vaccinated and boosted, wearing a mask can keep you from having a “breakthrough” COVID infection.
But Mild Infections Aren’t Bad, Are They?
Yes, even a mild COVID infection can be dangerous because even “mild” infections can cause cognitive processing problems. Research shows that COVID effects cognitive ability—the ability to think. This reduction in cognitive ability even affects people who have “mild” COVID. According to a major scientific study:
“People who have recovered from COVID-19 tend to score significantly lower on an intelligence test compared to those who have not contracted the virus … the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 can produce substantial reductions in cognitive ability….”
For more on the cognitive effects of “mild” COVID, read Should We Be Concerned about the Effects of COVID on Cognitive Processing and Executive Functioning Concerning Classroom Learning Losses?
Masks Help Protect You From COVID
As Joseph Allen, a COVID and ventilation expert from Harvard explained:
“…universal masking is still safest… [but] If you are vaccinated, boosted, and wearing a well-fitted N95 or similar indoors … regardless of what everyone else is doing… your risk is extremely low…. An N95 mask filters about 95 percent of airborne particles.”
But Allen goes on to explain that your mask must fit properly. Your mask must cover both your nose and your mouth with a tight seal—no gaps.
“…two surgical masks—one on me, one on you—filter only about 91 percent, [but because] most people’s masks aren’t perfectly sealed onto their faces, studies show that N95s reduce the wearer’s uptake of coronavirus particles by 57 to 86 percent. And that’s on top of the protection that vaccines and boosters already offer.”
So, yes, wearing a mask makes a big difference. The kind of mask you wear determines your level of protection. Wear a N95, KN95 or KF94.
Also, the way you wear your mask makes a big difference. Pulling your mask down underneath your nose because you are afraid that you won’t be able to breathe does not protect you from COVID. It leaves you and everyone around you wide open to exposure.
Wearing a mask loosely looped over your ears but not fitting tightly to your face is also not effective. Don’t worry. You’ll be able to breathe, even with a tight-fitting N-95 mask. Surgeons wear masks all day long and breathe just fine. When you go to ER, the personnel are going to be wearing masks and have been wearing masks all day, even during long shifts. Workers who paint cars in factories, wear masks all day long while they work—even before COVID. Some woodworkers, especially sanders, wear masks to protect their lungs. Wearing a mask is not harmful or hard to do.
It's easy to wear a mask, and who knows, it may save your life. Are you planning to wear a mask today when you leave the house?
Be smart. Wear a mask. The life you save may be your own.
Photo: Elaine Clanton Harpine