Just wear the face mask, already.
It is not a violation of civil liberties … any more than the "no shoes, no shirt, no service" sign on the convenience store door.
It is not a political statement … though plenty of people want to make it one.
It is not a guarantee that you won't get the coronavirus … but studies, real-world evidence and even some wacky home experiments show that masks can protect you and others from the coronavirus, even in high-risk situations.
For all the early focus on cleaning doorknobs and disinfecting groceries, we now know that the virus is spread most efficiently through the tiny droplets we emit when we talk, laugh, sing, sneeze or cough. Now that testing is ramped up, the tests are finding that people can be infectious before they show symptoms — and some people never show symptoms. If a person is sick and doesn't know it, a simple face covering can catch most of those droplets and prevent other people from inhaling them.
So why isn't everyone just wearing a mask? Some people don't want to be told what to do. Or they feel invincible. Or maybe they just don't care that much about other people.
Others cling to the advice public health officials gave early in the pandemic, when they downplayed mask use outside of healthcare settings. At the time, there was a worldwide shortage of personal protective equipment for health professionals. Some epidemiologists think we should have been wearing homemade cloth masks from the start. The CDC's official advice on masks changed as it learned more about the virus. Even President Donald Trump reluctantly came around on masks, calling them "patriotic."
New York was the first state to mandate wearing masks in public. The results speak for themselves. In other states late to the mask mandate, the growth rate of COVID-19 infections slowed down by 2 percentage points over three weeks after masks were put in place.
Masks are a pain, but masks work.
It's not fair that front-line restaurant servers and retail clerks have been forced to become the mask police, exposing them to abuse and violence from customers who won't follow store rules. Teenage ice cream stand clerks in Chittenango were bullied by adults who were refused service because they weren't wearing masks. An overwhelmed Camillus restaurateur got in trouble with the State Liquor Authority because customers wouldn't follow the mask and physical distancing rules. Two men were arrested in New York City for assaulting Trader Joe's workers trying to enforce the mask rule.
Look, we all want to get back to doing the things we love to do. Wearing masks will help us get there — as it has in other countries where you can watch a baseball game in person (South Korea) or send your kids to school (just about everywhere but here). According to one simulation, if 80 percent of people wore masks, that would do more to reduce the spread of COVID-19 than another lockdown.
Just wear the mask, already. It's the right thing to do to protect yourself and protect others. And if you feel that strongly about not wearing one, then just stay home.
Originally published by the Syracuse Media Group, N.Y. at www.syracuse.com Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.