The point of wearing a mask in public is not to protect yourself, but to protect other people from you. We know that many people who fall ill won’t show symptoms during the time when they are most infectious. Some people may even remain asymptomatic through the whole course of the disease, never knowing they had it.
The safest thing to do is assume you’re sick all the time, and wear the mask.
This he suggests needs to become a cultural norm.
The goal is not only to keep people safe, but to make it rare and weird to see anyone outside with a bare face.
Ceglowski lists some of the benefits of wearing a mask:
- Keeps you from touching your nose and mouth
- Is a useful mental reminder
- Somewhat uncomfortable, therefore a useful constraint to spending too long in public
- Gives cover to sick people around you
- Protects those who are being persecuted for doing so
He also notes that anyone wearing an N95 mask should reconsider:
If you have any N95 masks, you need to donate them to a hospital. These masks are lifesaving protective equipment for doctors and medical staff. They are in incredibly short supply. Wearing them in daily life is like wearing a fireman’s coat instead of suntan lotion—it doesn’t do much for you, and wastes an invaluable resource that could save the life of a first responder.
In his own piece, Jason Kottke looks at the research and wonders why we are still debating the topic.
There’s no credible evidence that wearing a mask is harmful, so at worse it’s harmless. If there’s like a 1-in-10 chance that masks are somewhat helpful — and the growing amount of research suggests that both 1-in-10 and “somewhat helpful” are both understatements — isn’t it worth the tiny bit of effort to wear one and help keep our neighbors safe from potential fucking death?
Coming from an Australian perspective, Norman Swan has raised concern about the wearing of masks on the Coronacast podcast.
Although it must be said that he has since changed has stance to advocate for mask wearing.
As a note, although masks may stop some particles from getting through, there is a danger of thinking that because you are wear a mask that you are somehow safe. The New York Times has put together visual unpacking how masks actually work.
The ABC elaborates on this further explaining why masks are not mandated by the government in Australia.
Not much different from the advice we’ve been given from the start: wash your hands, don’t touch your face and stay home if you’re sick.
In the end, the most important thing we can focus on is social distancing.