High-filtration masks are one of the few measures that can reliably tamp down on infection and transmission across populations, and they’re still embraced by many parents of newborns too young for vaccines, by people who are immunocompromised and those who care for them, and by those who want to minimize their risk of developing long COVID, which can’t be staved off by vaccines and treatments alone. Theresa Chapple-McGruder, a Chicago-area epidemiologist, plans to keep her family masking at least until her baby son is old enough to receive his first COVID shots. In the meantime, though, they’ve certainly been feeling the pressure to conform. “People often tell me, ‘It’s okay, you can take your mask off here,’” Chapple-McGruder told me; teachers at the local elementary school have said similar things to her young daughters. Meghan McCoy, a former doctor in New Hampshire who takes immunosuppressive medications for psoriatic arthritis and has ME/CFS, has also been feeling “the pressure to take the mask off,” she told me—at her kid’s Girl Scout troop meetings, during trips to the eye doctor. “You can feel when you’re the only one doing something,” McCoy said. “It’s noticeable.”
I am not sure that Australia is much better in regards to the stigma associated with masks. Personally, I wear a mask on public transport and simply try to limit being in questionable spaces. However, where I feel strange is at work. I can accept that there are limitations to mask wearing, but if this is the case I wonder if more will be done over time to improve ventilation?