To mask or to mask? That is the question millions of Americans are asking as more cities and states are implementing mask requirements in public to stem the tide of the coronavirus pandemic.
The polarization on this issue is frankly a little baffling. The science is clear on how and why universal masking is effective at limiting the spread of the coronavirus. (Viruses don't fly out of people's bodies by themselves—they get carried in droplets. Masks help us keep our droplets to ourselves when we talk, laugh, cough or sneeze.)
For many Americans, science itself is either seen an anathema or a government conspiracy to control the masses. And for many Americans, having the government tell us to do anything at all is seen as infringing on our individual liberties. So here we are, arguing about wearing masks as a public health measure.
Twitter user "Libby" has a satirical take on the issue, one that perfectly illustrates how absurd anti-mask arguments sound in the context of public health.
"Welcome to the Freedom Cafe!" she wrote. "We trust you to make your own choices if you want to wear a face mask. And, in the same spirit of individual liberty, we allow our staff to make their own choices about the safety procedures they prefer to follow as they prepare and serve your food."
Welcome to the Freedom Cafe! We trust you to make your own choices if you want to wear a face mask. And, in the sam… https://t.co/9CgXZyLbck— Libby (@Libby) 1593354008.0
"We encourage employees to wash their hands after using the bathroom," she continued, "but understand that some people may be allergic to certain soaps or may simply prefer not to wash their hands. It is not our place to tell them what to do.
We understand that you may be used to chicken that has been cooked to 165 degrees. We do have to respect that some of our cooks may have seen a meme or a YouTube video saying that 100 degrees is sufficient, and we do not want to encroach on their beliefs."
We understand that you may be used to chicken that has been cooked to 165 degrees. We do have to respect that some… https://t.co/a8XzkOKj4x— Libby (@Libby) 1593354083.0
"Some of our cooks may prefer to use the same utensils for multiple ingredients, including ingredients some customers are allergic to. That is a cook's right to do so," she added.
"Some servers may wish to touch your food as they serve it. There is no reason that a healthy person with clean hands can't touch your food. We will take their word for it that they are healthy and clean."
Some servers may wish to touch your food as they serve it. There is no reason that a healthy person with clean hand… https://t.co/suL7Tfsb4N— Libby (@Libby) 1593354167.0
"Water temperature and detergent are highly personal choices, and we allow our dishwashing team to decide how they'd prefer to wash the silverware you will put in your mouth.
Some of you may get sick, but almost everyone survives food poisoning. We think you'll agree that it's a small price to pay for the sweet freedom of no one ever being told what to do - and especially not for the silly reason of keeping strangers healthy."
Some of you may get sick, but almost everyone survives food poisoning. We think you’ll agree that it’s a small pric… https://t.co/3HA0waLjud— Libby (@Libby) 1593354496.0
And there you have it.
Does anyone argue with public health departments establishing requirements for food handling and safety? No. Does anyone complain that such requirements are an infringement on individual liberties? No. Why? Because we all agree that keeping people healthy in public places is super important and that having such requirements in place, no matter what people's personal preferences or beliefs or comfort levels are, is a good idea.
We're not used to thinking of public health as something we all have to actively participate in, but that's absolutely the way we must think of it during a pandemic. Since we're experiencing a reality we've never experienced in our lifetime, we're going to have to expect some changes we've never experienced before as well.
But it's not even like the idea of wearing a mask to protect others is a new idea. Surgeons wear masks to keep fluids away from their faces, but also to keep their own germs out of patients' bodies. When I lived in Japan two decades ago, it was commonplace to see people wearing masks in public because they had a cold and were trying to limit their germ spread as a matter of courtesy.
Stop making mask-wearing a political thing. Stop saying that masks don't work when there is ample evidence now that they do. Masks are used to limit the spread of the virus is practically every country, and our widespread resistance to it in the name of "freedom" has very real consequences.
No one actually likes wearing a mask. It sucks for all of us. But it's the right thing to do because universal masking is only effective if we all actually do it. So toughen up, America. Let's use the freedom we have to do the hard, right thing and show the world we're not as selfish and uninformed as we seem.
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