Paul's Internet Landfill/ 2020/ Masks



Well, we're in Wave Two of the pandemic. After weeks of dismissing masks in March ("People will wear them incorrectly! There is no published evidence of their effectiveness! People will touch their noses as they readjust them!") public health authorities are now mandating masks.

I think the flip-flop on mask policy has been one of the most damaging aspects of the coronavirus pandemic. From the beginning there were voices advocating the use of masks, and from the beginning there was a suspicion that public health authorities were dismissive of mask use in the general public because they wanted to preserve supplies for health providers. But instead of telling us the truth, they told us a bunch of lies -- lies which the anti-maskers are now parrotting. Public health officials should not be lying to us, even if it is for "our own good". I do not believe for a minute that public health hesitancy on mask had anything to do with "lack of evidence", and as such I trust public health information a lot less. I now believe health authorities will give me messages that are politically expedient, not messages that promote my health.

I think this cynicism has extended to other areas, such as school openings. How many of us believe that schools are actually safe places to send children, even though the public health authorities say so? I certainly don't. I believe this is more political expediency, because leaving children at home with their working parents is not working out well at all.

In addition to the public health messaging, it is distressing the degree to which we have politicized mask wearing. People get outraged when they see other people in public without masks, and vice versa.

I continue to wear my reusable cloth masks when I go outside, but I do not believe masks are a panacea. Staying away from other people is the panacea, and though I have become more lax about that (going to the Farmer's Market, shopping for junk food casually) I am acutely aware that the more people I come in contact with the greater the chance I have of exposing myself to the virus. I am also aware that prolonged indoor exposure matters much more than being outside. These factors matter a lot more than masks.

We also have forgotten the reason we wear masks: to protect other people. All of now have magical thinking that wearing a mask will protect us from this virus, when that is not really the case at all.

Masks are relevant, and they are important, but they should not be the hill we die on. We should not be splitting ourselves into mask totalitarians and mask dissidents, but that is what has happened, and now the dissidents are getting sick for no good reason. Haranguing and socially shaming does not turn dissenters into mask-wearers; it makes them dig their heels in.