Letter: Why do you wear a mask?
Lately I have been thinking about the line from William Goldman’s “The Princess Bride” when The Dread Pirate Roberts cheekily explains why he wears a mask: “…They’re terribly comfortable,” he says. “I think everyone will be wearing them in the future.” Well, he was right on one count!
But seriously, why do the county commissioners want us all wearing masks? To be sure, “a cloth bandanna wrapped around one’s head in no way mimics an N95” – but it doesn’t need to to protect us all from COVID-19 so long as everyone wears a face covering.
Think of it this way. Everyone is compelled by law to respect private property. Someone might argue that keeping your hands off your neighbors’ things does not protect you from poverty as well as a trust fund, so respecting property rights should be left to the individual to decide. But this is preposterous; all of us would be a great deal worse off if respecting private property were not universal.
For as long as there is no vaccine or effective treatment for the novel coronavirus, face coverings work the same way. We all wear them, not because cloth face coverings are as effective as N95s but because without everyone wearing them we would all be more exposed to the virus in the community. The virus spreads in part by people who have it and are contagious but show no symptoms. The only way to ensure that these asymptomatic spreaders wear cloth face coverings, protecting others from infection, is for every last one of us to wear them. Universal adoption preserves the health of the community, indirectly preserving the health of individuals.
Masks are not terribly comfortable to wear, however, so I partly understand the popular push-back against their requirement. But consider this: seatbelt laws and hard hat requirements were unpopular once, and yet since their inception each they have saved lives and prevented injuries in the thousands every year.
The requirement to wear face coverings may save lives, too. We should await research demonstrating just how successful it is – but in the meantime, wearing a mask doesn’t hurt much and looks like it could mitigate the swift spread of a deadly virus in our community. That is why everyone should wear a mask now and in the foreseeable future.
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