Recently, I asked one of my peers why they don’t wear a mask in public.
I was treated to an interesting response about how the government seems to flip-flop on the topic. I was then asked in a contemptuous tone if I endorsed a mandatory mask policy.
I quickly realized that for many, wearing a mask has become a political symbol. Somehow, wearing a mask has become a strange code for: “I support the current government!” and not wearing a mask is an act of defiance against the politicians who are “effectively telling us what to wear and when.”
Wearing a mask shouldn’t be political or controversial, it should just be common sense.
Let me acknowledge there are valid reasons for not wearing a mask. For example, some people with disabilities or breathing difficulties can’t wear a mask.
And yes, wearing a mask can be uncomfortable. Your glasses fog up, you can’t eat or drink, it hides your facial expressions, and wearing a mask for too long results in anything from breakouts on your skin to rashes.
But wearing a mask is less about politics and more about respecting both yourself and other people.
There is plenty of evidence that wearing a mask helps stop the spread of COVID-19. So why not wear one? It keeps you and other people safe.
Save a life (or a thousand)
But if this isn’t convincing enough, consider a very real, darker outcome if we don’t exercise the right precautions.
We have made great strides from a few months ago. By putting our lives on hold and enduring some devastating economic losses in the process, we managed to significantly reduce our cases across our provinces and territories.
But these gains are only as good as our determination to continue our vigilance. Drop our guard down now, and the reality is we risk another lockdown and put more lives at risk.
These dangers are a fact and not an opinion. We need not look any further than our neighbours to the south to see the results of a hasty openings in some of these states.
Eight states in the south have reported a record number of COVID-19 cases including Texas, Florida and California. Florida alone saw a whopping 8,942 new cases on Friday, resulting in the governor announcing the closure of bars.
The dire situation highlights the need for citizens to follow the public-health guidelines in place, and for our leaders to establish feasible and safe guidelines for provinces, territories and our nation.
This is where the debate begins on masks. Many experts including doctors and politicians argue that governments should make masks mandatory in public or in spaces where social distancing isn’t possible.
The reception to the idea has been a mixed bag. Some towns, like Guelph have gone ahead and made masks mandatory when a person visits or works at businesses in the area.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford has said he is in favour of making masks mandatory, but added that it wouldn’t be possible to enforce the rule across the province without running into logistical concerns.
Perhaps we need to work towards the normalization of wearing a mask in our society, instead of waiting for our governments to pass a law.
Visible, Accessible and Cool
Here’s an interesting experiment that my parents tried when I was a child.
I used to dislike math. Alot. So much that I would refuse to do my homework. I wasn’t good at it, and I liked reading more than I did multiplication.
My parents decided they would see if they could convince me into doing my math homework.
They hired a tutor to break down the more confusing parts of grade school math (I’m talking about you geometry!) into more accessible steps. They explained to me how math was used in our everyday lives. They made me do math at the grocery store, at home, in the car, really anywhere they could show me that math existed outside of my school.
My parents also went the extra step and made math seem cool. They took me to an exhibit where there was a string art display and they tried to make soap-bubble cubes to teach me geometry.
Did I suddenly love math? Nope. But when my parents broke it down for me, showed me that math was basically everywhere and tried to make it cool, it resulted in me changing my behaviour and (admittedly begrudgingly) doing my homework.
The key to normalization then is to make masks visible, accessible and cool. Masks should be found and easily purchased in most stores, airports etc. for a decent price. Better yet, if organizations or governments could distribute masks to people as they go about their everyday lives, this would speed up the normalization process and probably keep more people safe.
But as the experiment demonstrates, it’s not enough to make something accessible and visible. People have to want to wear them.
Luckily, there’s plenty of companies designing masks for all kinds of personalities and interests. Like Liverpool F.C and want to celebrate their win? There’s a mask for that. Do you like cats? There’s a mask for that.
Buy a mask with a design that suits your personality. Make your own if you don’t like the options on the market. Wear a standard non-medical mask you bought from the local pharmacy.
Yes, I know it’s a minor inconvenience and there’s dissenting opinions on whether you should be wearing them or not. But please, just wear a mask and give others (not to mention yourself) the peace of mind.
Sylvia Lorico is a student pursuing an Honours Bachelor of Arts at the University of Toronto – St. George, with a specialization in Political Science. She has volunteered internationally in several nations including Vietnam and Belgium. She is also a youth ambassador at the NATO Association of Canada. Her research interests include topics in Canadian and European politics, specifically on voting behaviours and foreign policy. She enjoys travelling, public speaking and theatre.