Social media is filled with questions around the do’s and don’ts of face masks and social distancing in general. Do I need to wear a mask when I walk the dog? Do I need to wear a mask when I go hiking? Do I need a mask around family?
Yes, you should wear a mask. A lot.
First, it’s an important tool to minimize transmission of the virus. You do not know if you are asymptomatic so you can’t in good conscience declare yourself ‘clean’ (that’s a disgusting term) – you put on a mask to protect others. That includes others whom you might not see or expect to see or even like. You can’t say with certainty you’ll be alone in any situation, particularly when everyone else seeks solitude now.
Second, the mask is one tool in the kit. We must follow social distancing guidelines. We must wash our hands thoroughly. We must disinfect when necessary. These things work together so yes the mask is necessary.
Third, there’s the clear need to teach by example. We are surrounded by fools who ignore science, data, and reason. Their judgement is further impaired by alcohol, unprocessed resentment, and arrogance. We are isolated, afraid, and desperate. None of this is a good foundation for making smart choices in general. You can’t argue with a fool. See all the pool parties planned this weekend.
But you can set a good example. Wear your mask. Take photos in your mask. Mention wearing a mask.
Then there’s the social signaling. If I see you approach me on the street or in Walgreens or outside Starbucks, I have very limited information on the safety risks of our encounter. I can look to see if you are masked. If I see a mask on your face or around your neck, I assume you are at least familiar with the rules. It’s a rudimentary assessment, but our social cues about a virus are limited.
If you do not wear a mask, reason dictates you are a greater threat to me than a masked stranger. I can make an effort to avoid you, I can reduce exposure or contact. I can wash my hands.
It doesn’t mean you are a bad person. But you might be ill-informed or in denial. You might genuinely believe this is a hoax. You might actually agree that letting vulnerable people die is a tradeoff for opening hair salons.
You might have forgotten your mask.
But I can’t know those things. I just see you minus a mask. And respond accordingly.
Of course there are situations where you don’t need a mask. In a swimming pool. In your home. But the idea that you can go outside without a mask is a slippery slope.
If you put on a mask or grab a mask everytime you leave the house, you’ll be less likely to be caught off guard.
If you are close enough to explain why you don’t have a mask, you need a mask.
If you crave fresh air, put a mask around your neck so you can pull it up. Get a mask that meets these needs so you can take care of yourself and other people.
Sometimes this isn’t easy. We spent time with folks who have different masks protocols than ours. It was a little awkward. But we negotiated a workable compromise by being willing to talk about it. And the conversation several times touched on related issues.
The fact that I know them doesn’t mean I can assume they aren’t carriers. It means I know how they incorporate all the protocols and educate themselves. And we figured it out.
I’m far from perfect. I touch my mask too often because most do not fit well and constrict my breathing. I struggle to get ties adjusted. I sometimes forget masks. I do TRY hard to be mindful and own my mistakes., not rationalize them.
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