To wear or not to wear…

Wearing masks as part of rituals and/or ceremonies have been part of our society since the ancient times. Outside of these situations, however, wearing masks wasn’t a common sighting. At least until the late 1800s when surgeons started to wear them and then the robbers and members of the Ku Klux Klan followed suit. For all the wrong reasons, obviously.

Facial masks became a lot more prevalent starting with the Spanish Flu in 1918. Particularly in Japan that was affected by the Great Kanto Earthquake (which caused a massive inferno destroying more than 600,000 homes!) in 1923, then another global flu epidemic in 1930s, and then the rapid post-World War II industrialisation (which more than doubled the air pollution levels). Understandably, masks are a common sight not just in Japan but also its neighbouring countries.

In Asia, masks aren’t just shields. They’re also symbols. They’re an affirmation of civic-mindedness and conscientiousness, and such symbols might be important in other parts of the world too. If widely used, masks could signal that society is taking the pandemic threat seriously. They might reduce the stigma foisted on sick people, who would no longer feel ashamed or singled out for wearing one. They could offer reassurance to people who don’t have the privilege of isolating themselves at home, and must continue to work in public spaces. “My staff have also mentioned that having a mask reminds them not to touch their face or put a pen in their mouth,” Bourouiba noted.

Everyone Thinks They’re Right About Masks (The Atlantic)

In 2020, however, it’s a common sight across the planet! At this very moment, 6 out 10 people you see on the streets are wearing a mask. That may sound great but most people have literally hoarded the global stock of N95 (the highest grade of protection) and surgical masks, leaving the medical professionals begging for themselves so they can stay protected while saving lives! Local governments are doing their bit to discourage hoarding and requesting people to stay at home and donate the masks they’ve stocked.

In fact, even the WHO states that you really don’t have to wear a mask unless you’re affected as it just gives you a semblance of protection. You’re better off practicing social distancing and hygiene.

When and how to wear medical masks – WHO

I honestly am not sure whether or not to wear a mask. Part of the reason is that I don’t own one nor can I find one locally. It seems to be out of stock, perpetually. I do have a balaclava but I’m apprehensive as the last thing I want right now is to be mistaken for a robber.

Despite WHO and local government’s recommendations, however, I feel we should be wearing a mask. Just not the kind that medical professionals should. You may think differently, but I invite you to think about this — why do we wear a seat belt in an aircraft? Do you think you can survive with that stupid best across your body if the plane crashes? You and I know the answer to that, right? But if there’s any chance you may survive because of that damn best, aren’t you better off wearing it than not?

And that’s the whole point. Wear a mask for general protection. There’s also a study somewhere that states that cloth masks are harmful compared to surgical or the N95 masks. Some lab tests conclude that cloth masks block about 60-80% pathogens while their surgical and N95 counterparts block more than 95%! That said, there’s no freaking way you will get your hands on the better quality masks right now. In that case, even a cloth mask is better than nothing. And it sure seems to be working for Asians, so, it’s helpful to some extent for sure.

Michael Lin, a neurobiology and bioengineering professor at Stanford University who also holds a medical degree, published a useful guide for COVID-19 recently. He firmly believes we all should be wearing a mask.

“This is a respiratory virus, so there’s no doubt, scientifically speaking, that masks help reduce the spread if you also continue to take other appropriate measures.”

Respiratory viruses and droplets can be blocked to a large extent by breathing through a mask,” Lin says. “The contention of CDC that it’s not effective in preventing you from getting a virus from a sick person is baloney.We know scientifically, and from common sense, that it does help. For them to say that is really dishonest and has caused a large loss of credibility. In an epidemic where the credibility of the public health organization is paramount.”

“This is all about risk,” he says. At current infection rates, “you still only have a one in 100 or one in 1,000 chance that anyone you’re speaking with is carrying the virus. If you’re wearing some kind of face covering and you reduce your risk further by 70%, that would make a huge difference to the spread of the epidemic. If everyone took measures to cut their risk by 50%-70%, then the epidemic can die out twice as fast. These are the considerations that I’m sure the CDC is thinking about now.”

We should all wear masks now (Fast Company)

I don’t know why you would be needing more reasons to start wearing a mask. It’s common sense and as important as wearing a seat-belt or helmet. For your safety. If you can’t find one, create one yourself (you can make one out of a t-shirt!)or just settle for the cloth mask, it’ll do just fine. Most importantly, don’t hoard, the medical professionals need it more than you. Help them to help you.

For more insights, check this links out:

You Probably Should Be Wearing a Face Mask if You Can

More Americans Should Probably Wear Masks for Protection


Simple DIY masks could help flatten the curve. We should all wear them in public.

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