Wednesday, May 27, 2020

To Mask or Not to Mask: That's the Question #3


It had always seemed so foreign to me to see people wearing masks. My most recent recollection of public requirement for masks as a precaution against disease outbreaks were found among Asian population. It made sense to me, because they had dealt with both SARS in 2002 and Bird Flu in 2006. I had always been an advocate of preventive care. It appeared to me that it was easier to stop things from happening. Why waste so much energy, and resources on cleaning up the mess? Therefore, the whole concept behind mask wearing in Eastern Asian countries struck me as a responsible thing to do. 

Having said that, it still felt foreign to me. We had never had dealt with serious respiratory outbreaks, or had I been so naive to think that we were immune to those? We had flu outbreaks every year, and we still carried on with our lives. The percentage of people lost to influenza every year was heartbreaking, and terrible, yet none of us wore masks to prevent the spread of flu. Some of us faithfully received flu shot. Some of us refused for plethora of reasons. As for us, we always opted for flu shot. When one of us succumbed to flu, we recovered without complication, and returned to our daily lives. Our immunity system were able to fight off influenza. Masks never became a commonplace in our country, unless you had a compromised immune system, and you had one for yourself. 

There has been so much controversy surrounding wearing the masks. 

When this first broke out, there was an outcry from the medical workers, because they lacked PPE gear as well as N95 masks. There were so many stories of nurses, doctors, and medical workers wearing the same mask for an entire shift. It was horrible! Our government's apathy, quickness to blame others, and refusal of accepting their responsibility was quite apparent. I got a feeling that many states were forced to fend for themselves. It was when I made a decision to sew cloth masks. Sure, it was not adequate, or the best protection for our healthcare workers. But it was something! I ended up sewing about 100 masks before finally running out of the supplies. To be honest, I was also becoming burnt out from making so many masks, and I didn't feel guilty for stopping, because there was so many amazing people coming together from all over place to donate their time to sew masks. 

It was how I spent most of March. It gave me a purpose. It made me feel like I was making a difference. I wanted to be a part of the solution instead of being a part of the problem. It also distracted me from all of the unease happening outside of my home, and kept my anxiety at the bay. In the beginning of April, there was talks of CDC recommending EVERYONE to wear masks with an exception of children under age 2, and for those folks with difficulty in breathing. I had no problem with that! I was on board. Sign me up! 

I understood that it was not to protect myself from getting the virus, but to protect others from getting infected from me if I was asymptomatic. It was a responsible, right thing to do. I understood that wearing cloth masks didn't completely stop the virus from being filtered through, and with that knowledge, I was still okay with wearing a mask, because it was better than alternative of not wearing one and blasting germs everywhere. I did not view this as a conformity, or the government dictating our freedom. It was an act of solidarity. Yet I saw so many protests in my state as well as other states about wearing masks in the public. 

Our country has always been run on autonomy. It is what makes us unique. Our free will to make our own decisions, and our own choices. We are not a country where we must rely, and survive by making decisions as a whole. When we are faced with a possibility of having our autonomy taken away, we freak out. Damn them all if my choices are being infringed. This is unconstitutional (never mind that mask wearing is not compulsory). Also, for some, wearing masks is a sign of vulnerability, or weakness. So we must be strong, and brave by not wearing the masks! We must not succumb to our fears! To me, this is a clear case of denial that we are in trouble. It does not help when we see our politicians not wearing masks. It does not help that there is no clarity, or education about wearing masks. Some people have complained that wearing masks are uncomfortable. It's hot! It's stuffy! I can't breath! The ear pieces are rubbing against my ears. It hurts! My glasses are always fogging up. I don't like it. 

The truth is, I believe that masks represent a loss of normalcy, because this is not normal pre-COVID19, and to lose our sense of normalcy is disorienting. The life before COVID19 is gone. It no longer exists. There is grief for that. For those who are not familiar with the stages of grief: Shock, Denial, Bargaining, Anger, Depression, and finally, Acceptance. I see stages unfolding in people. Shock is worn off for the most part. Now we are witnessing a lot of bargaining, and anger. 

It is disheartening to see people refusing to wear masks in the public. I try so hard not to judge their decision, and it is difficult to not to, because they are putting my loved ones at the risk. Are they that selfish? It also grates me at my nerves when I see people pulling a fast one by claiming that American Disability Act allows them not to wear a mask, because they claim to have a disability that prevents them from using one. I am Deaf, and I have always honestly relied on ADA to have a full access in the world that is not always so accommodating for my needs. For an abled body person to take an advantage of ADA meant for people like me boils my blood. Entitlement has never rested well with me. 

Sadly, the symbol of wearing masks has sadly become political when all along, it should have just been a sign of respect.