Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Coronavirus Update 6–30–2020: CDC now recommends that people wear cloth face coverings in public

Your cloth face covering may protect them. Their cloth face covering may protect you.

As COVID-19 cases spike nationwide, and the CDC warns that we have "way too much virus" to control the pandemic, that same agency just released new guidance recommending that people wear cloth face coverings when in public. 

The highlights:
  • CDC recommends that people wear cloth face coverings in public settings when around people outside of their household, especially when other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.
  • Cloth face coverings may help prevent people who have COVID-19 from spreading the virus to others.
  • Cloth face coverings are most likely to reduce the spread of COVID-19 when they are widely used by people in public settings.
  • Cloth face coverings should NOT be worn by children under the age of 2 or anyone who has trouble breathing, is unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance.

For reasons that still baffle me, the use of cloth face coverings is a political issue, and not a science issue. Since this issue has become politicized to the point of endangering people's lives, let's look at, and debunk, the counterarguments people use against wearing masks in public.

1. A mask won't stop me from catching COVID-19. You are correct. A mask won't stop you from catching COVID-19. But they will stop you from spreading it to someone else. The science is clear and irrefutable—if a majority of us wear masks when in public, we'd reduce the spread of this virus to an acceptable level, and if all of us do so we'd effectively stop the spread outright. If you don't want to wear a mask for yourself, wear one to protect your family members, your friends, your co-workers, and others. 

2. I'm not sick. Just because you don't feel sick doesn't mean that you're not carrying COVID-19. It could also mean that you are a pre-symptomatic or asymptomatic carrier of the virus who could still nevertheless transmit it to someone else. You aren't wearing the mask to protect yourself; you're wearing it to protect others.

3. I'm not high-risk for Covid-19 complications. Just because you are younger or lack any of the underlying medical conditions that places you at higher risk of Covid complications doesn't mean that those you come into contact are as well. Think of your friends and family members, the friends and family members of your co-workers, and the friends and family members of those with whom you come into contact at the grocery store or anywhere else in the world. Again, you aren't wearing the mask to protect yourself; you're wearing it to protect others. (Do you sense a theme here?)

4. I have a constitutional right not to wear a mask. No, you don't, no more than you have a constitutional right to enter a business without wearing a shirt or shoes, to drive without a seatbelt, or to smoke on an airplane. The government can require you to wear a mask when outside of our house to protect the health and safety of others during a pandemic, period. If a government can't maintain rules to keep us healthy and safe, why have a government at all?

5. Wearing a mask will harm my health. No, it won't. People incorrectly claim that masks decrease the wearer's oxygen intake, increase their inhalation of toxins and carbon dioxide, and cause their immune system to shut down. These claims are simply not true. If they were, doctors, nurses, and other medical staff in operating rooms would be falling ill daily. If you have a legitimate disability that a facial covering would negatively impact, the ADA might provide you some relief in the form of a reasonable or public accommodation. Otherwise, science simply does not support the claim that masks will harm the health of a healthy person. Moreover, if you think it's hard to breath wearing a mask, you'll really think it's hard to breathe with your lungs drowning in fluid while on a ventilator.

6. Masks are part of a government conspiracy to control me and my actions. Seriously? Do I even need to discuss this argument? Talk to me when you remove your tinfoil hat. 

The bottom line: wear a mask

If we simply wash our hands, and maintain an appropriate amount of social distance and wear a mask when around others, we'd all be able to go about some semblance of our normal lives. And since that's all what we all want to do, why do some make this issue so damn hard?