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To mask or not to mask
For now, that is the question, but masks can help others
Life on the Ark.jpg

A small debate was raging Wednesday on the Great Bend Tribune Facebook page about the benefit of wearing masks in public during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The anti-maskers sounded a lot like 1970s motorists who didn’t want to be “told” to wear seat belts.

“Rights of the people trump everything,” one posted. “Tell me one more time I need to wear a mask and stay home and see what happens.”

Others were equally passionate, if less aggressive. They said people are welcome to wear masks if they are afraid and think it will protect them, but they choose not to. Some also questioned whether masks are at all effective or even the safest option.

One non-mask user cited the World Health Organization which says, “If you are healthy, you only need to wear a mask if you are taking care of a person with COVID-19. Wear a mask if you are coughing or sneezing. Masks are effective only when used in combination with frequent hand-cleaning with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water. If you wear a mask, then you must know how to use it and dispose of it properly.”

The Centers for Disease Control didn’t recommend masks for all, at first, mainly out of concern that people would grab up medical-grade masks needed for first responders and health-care professionals. But in April the CDC added masks to the list of precautions people should take, saying, “some recent studies have suggested that COVID-19 may be spread by people who are not showing symptoms, which is why face masks are recommended.”

Also, “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not recommend the general public wear N95 masks unless they are a health provider, as there’s a shortage and need to be fitted appropriately to avoid any leakage that could lower its effectiveness against COVID-19. Even if you decide to use a medical mask, health authorities say the some of the best protection you can take are very simple, like washing your hands and practicing social distancing.”

So, those who wear masks tend to wish others would, too. After all, the purpose of the mask is primarily to protect others. My mask protects you from me and your mask protects me from you. This group is equally passionate because its members feel a duty to consider their fellow human beings. They are just afraid for themselves, as anti-maskers suggest, but they are concerned for everyone.

Those of us who wear masks in businesses and places where social distancing isn’t a sure thing are grateful to others who do the same and we steer clear of those who don’t. We haven’t personally seen people arguing or being rude about this – except on social media. But then, we’re staying home more than we used to.