Opinion: Why you should care about wearing a mask

Mandatory mask mandates have been put in place around the country, including many cities and counties in Idaho. Boise Mayor Lauren McLean signed a public health order on July 4 requiring face masks in public for anyone over the age of five.

Boise State has also made it mandatory for all students to wear facial coverings when in a classroom setting, indoors or outside when physical distancing is not possible.

Despite many states having mask mandates, a number of Americans refuse to wear masks, even though health experts and organizations alike have expressed how important a mask mandate is during the COVID-19 pandemic.

With many health experts and organizations, such as the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO), backing the use of masks, why are some still refusing to wear them? 

On April 3, the CDC released a statement advising everyone to wear a face mask or covering when in public. Before that, however, the CDC said that healthy people did not need to wear masks. Naturally, there was some confusion following the recommendation. However, the fact is that the COVID-19 virus is so new that the CDC is still discovering new information about it. 

It also did not help that President Trump and members of his cabinet did not wear masks following the CDC’s recommendation. This led his supporters to question the CDC’s recommendation and masks in general.  

Along with the confusing and contradictory information being put out by health organizations, another reason one might refuse to wear a mask is denial. You would think that wearing something as simple as a face mask to reduce the spread of a deadly virus would be more agreed upon, but some do not believe they can catch the virus. Or they might know they can catch it but do not think they will die from it. 

According to health experts, the younger the individual, the less likely they are to die from the coronavirus. However, they can still spread it to friends, family and anyone else they come in contact with. 

Some question the science behind masks, wondering if the minor inconvenience is really doing anything to lessen the spread. Many institutes and organizations have done experiments and studies to test the usefulness of facial coverings.

A study by Nature Medicine discovered that when people with the flu or cold wore a surgical mask, it greatly reduced the number of droplets and aerosols emitted. Basically, wearing a mask when you are sick reduces the likelihood that you will spread that virus to someone else through speaking, coughing or sneezing. 

The Mayo Clinic published an article discussing how much protection masks offer. 

According to the Mayo Clinic, “A cloth mask is intended to trap droplets that are released when the wearer talks, coughs or sneezes. Cloth face coverings are most likely to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus when they are widely used by people in public settings.” 

Though there has not been a lot of time to study COVID-19 specifically, masks have been proven to significantly reduce the spread of the flu, colds and other contagious viruses, and institutions have decided that masks are pertinent to stopping the spread of the coronavirus. 

Another reason that people choose not to wear a mask has to do with their rights, or instead how they perceive their rights. After the July 4 mandate was released, Health Freedom Idaho led a protest of around 100 people at Boise City Hall. Protesters claimed that science was against masks and the mandate went against their constitutional rights. 

I can understand the argument behind this. No one should be forced to wear something they do not want to wear. But when people’s lives are at risk, this argument sounds rather selfish. Mask mandates have nothing to do with personal freedoms or self expression (though they can be a vessel of expression). 

The point of masks is to minimize the spread of a deadly disease, and choosing not to wear one simply because you believe it either infringes on your rights or it is “not worth it” means that you are willing to risk others lives based on your own opinion and self-righteousness.

There are countless reasons as to why someone might refuse to wear a mask, but health experts have insisted that wearing facial coverings is the best way to stop the spread. Science backs facial coverings, so you should too. No matter what someone else might say instead. 

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