This past Sunday, the Chronicle printed a letter from an Inverness resident which claimed, “according to numerous reports, masks are worthless.”
Masks are not “worthless.” They’re also not perfect. Since they serve two purposes (to protect the wearer and to protect others nearby) we need to look at how well they do each job. Hint: They do both jobs pretty well, depending, but they do one job better than the other.
Protection for wearers varies by mask type ranges from the most effective U.S. certified N-95s and Chinese certified KN-95s followed by medical grade surgical masks and form-fitting multi-ply cloth masks. Coming in dead last and providing little to no protection for anyone are single-
ply or loose coverings like bandanas and any mask, regardless of quality or design, that is worn improperly.
That said, protecting others nearby is where masks really shine; again, except for the
single-ply, ill-fitting or improperly worn ones.
We’re under siege from a sometimes unseen enemy that is putting a deep strain on every aspect of our lives from our economy to our schools to our sanity and we can only fight back with the weapons currently at hand, namely, keeping your distance from those whose COVID-19 status is unknown, wash your hands frequently and wear a mask when in public spaces where distance can not be maintained (think grocery aisle or pharmacy check-out).
The often-heard claim that “your fear is your problem,” in addition to being selfish and irresponsible, isn’t the whole story. Like it or not, we’re all members of a larger society, and as such, depend on each other to some degree for safety and survival. To those who have their heels dug in on the mask issue, please know this: If you place yourself in close proximity to the general public, we already stipulated that masks don’t provide 100% protection for the wearer. So the mask-wearing “sheeple” you breeze by in the store aisle or crowd in on at the check-out are being forced, against their will, into putting their health and possibly their life as well as the lives of those they live with into your hands in order to purchase vital necessities.
Our biggest roadblock to winning this battle anytime soon is people who either don’t believe in science or don’t care about their fellow citizens, or both. Which is sad, because the novel coronavirus doesn’t care.