By Shelley Murphy
The controversy over wearing face masks is intensifying as coronavirus cases continue to climb.
The politicized and heated debate divides our community into two opinionated camps: face masks are essential to public health or face masks are a violation of civil liberties.
I acknowledge a myriad of pro-mask and anti-mask claims exist, but let’s look at a few of the loudest arguments against wearing masks:
—The guidelines for wearing masks are inconsistent, and many government leaders don’t wear masks.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has flip-flopped on its endorsement of mask wearing. Currently, the CDC guidelines recommend, but do not require, wearing masks.
The mixed messaging from leadership and inconsistent recommendations from the scientific community are deceiving.
—Coronavirus is like a bad flu, and wearing a mask won’t make a difference.
Media fearmongering is responsible for inflammatory and overblown reactions to the flu-like virus.
Studies report it takes several minutes of close contact with an infected person to contract COVID-19; therefore, the chance of catching the coronavirus from a passing interaction in a public space is minimal.
—Wearing a mask encroaches on civil liberties.
Requiring citizens to adhere to a behavior without undergoing the conventional law-making process is governmental overreach.
Life comes with inherent risks, and many citizens accept the dangers to live in a free society.
It’s an individual’s right not to wear a mask; mandatory mask wearing is not about safety but instead social control.
Now, let’s examine a few familiar arguments in favor of wearing face masks:
—Masks are a simple yet powerful tool to protect the country’s citizens.
The virus primarily spreads from infected individuals via respiratory droplets emitted while coughing, sneezing, talking and breathing.
Wearing a face mask is one of the best tools to block breathing in those droplets.
—Wearing a mask slows the spread of COVID-19.
People wear masks not only to keep themselves from contracting the virus but to help protect passersby from possible asymptomatic contact with COVID-19.
States that mandated wearing face masks in public saw a greater decline in daily COVID-19 growth rates than states that did not.
According to research by the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, potentially 30,000 deaths could be avoided by October if 95% of Americans wear face masks in public places.
—Masks help protect health care and essential workers.
Health care heroes and fearless frontline workers keep the nation in motion. Without their noble acts, day-to-day life would grind to a halt. Wearing a mask in public helps protect them against COVID-19.
Wearing a mask also shows support and gratitude for the health care and essential workers putting their lives on the line to aid their communities.
I hear those on both sides of the great divide.
I’m the first to admit, I loathe wearing a mask; but I do it to protect those close to me—both literally and figuratively.
Recently, after wearing a mask for several hours, I broke out in a red, irritating itchy rash. I threw out that mask and have found a few I can tolerate.
I also find it bothersome to keep track of my masks.
I routinely reach the door of the grocery store, realize I forgot my mask, and then pivot back to my car; I’m trying to look at it as getting my steps in for the day.
I don’t consider wearing a mask a political statement or a slippery slope to tyranny.
I also don’t think it abolishes my freedoms. I wear a seat belt, and I don’t enjoy that restriction, either—but it makes sense and saves lives.
Seat belts were voluntary until a federal law in 1968 required all vehicles, except buses, to include seat belts.
Why? Because science proves wearing seat belts significantly reduces car crash deaths and serious traffic-related injuries.
Wearing a face mask during a pandemic is common sense, not a culture war.
Put aside personal politics; the reality is, we’re in this together, and we’re the way out of this pandemic.
For more than 20 years, Shelley Murphy and her husband have lived in San Clemente, where she raised her two sons. She’s a freelance writer and has been a contributor to the San Clemente Times since 2006.