I wear a mask when I go out. I’m not proud of it. I’m not ashamed of it. I wear it because I’m an old, sick man living with an old, sick woman — neither one of us can afford to get COVID-19.
For us, it’s a matter of life and death.
But an unscientific observation by me shows that more than half the people who go out aren’t wearing masks. Is that a problem? For them it is. Since I keep at least six feet from everyone whether they’re wearing a mask or not, I pay it no mind.
Not so, others. It’s become entertainment in America to express one’s moral superiority by calling out fellow citizens for being unmasked. “Mask shaming” as a political sport is one thing. The “tsk-tsking” from the media when Mike Pence went maskless at the Mayo Clinic just gave the press another opportunity to bash Trump.
But what about private, ordinary citizens calling out others who aren’t wearing a mask? What the hell business is it of theirs? Especially since wearing a mask is far less than a guarantee you won’t get the coronavirus.
When the pandemic started in March, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention initially did not recommend faces masks for everyone. The logic, repeated early on by Tippecanoe County Health Department officials: Masks gave a false sense of security about blocking the virus. There also were concerns about people hoarding medical masks.
But in mid-April, the CDC amended its recommendation, stating that the public should wear a cloth covering over their faces when in confined areas where social distancing is challenging. The reason: Masks help prevent a person from spreading coronavirus when in close quarters.
Masks will protect against inhaling droplets that are expelled when someone coughs or sneezes. But it won’t protect you from the coronavirus if it’s airborne or lying on a surface that you touch. The virus can easily penetrate between the fibers of any mask and no one can do much of anything about surface contact with the virus.
So mask shamers have absolutely no standing — moral or otherwise — to declaim against people not wearing masks.
That didn’t stop people from piling on a state legislator Russ Diamond in Pennsylvania who mentioned he went maskless when out and about.
“Shopped sans mask. Bought TP. Got $1.99 gas & Batdorf take-out. So much winning,” Diamond posted on his personal Facebook page.
Diamond later clarified in the comments that he did wear a facemask while picking up his food from the Batdorf Restaurant in Annville. On Wednesday, Diamond said he knew he wouldn’t be able to keep 6 feet away from other people in the Batdorf, and wanted to respect the restaurant’s owner.
Diamond dared utter the heresy that mask-wearing is not a silver bullet against getting coronavirus.
Also in the comment section – which had over 500 replies as of midday Thursday – Diamond defended his actions to those who criticized him, saying:
“Mask shaming, the new virtue signal. So over it.”
“Wearing a mask does nothing unless you are in close quaraters, and even then may be not only ineffective, but dangerous to the wearer.”
“…my narrative changed because I have educated myself and learned that masks are pretty much useless for the general public.”
That may be an overstatement. Masks aren’t “useless” but they are hardly 100 percent effective in protecting people.
When the issue of masks first arose, health experts worried that people would develop a false sense of security about wearing them. They’d feel invulnerable and not take other safety precautions like practicing social distancing and washing your hands frequently.
What they didn’t count on was the “busybody factor.” Give someone an opportunity to feel more virtuous than their neighbor and they’ll grab it every time.
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