Do we need wearing masks during COVID-19?

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handmade mask


This afternoon, I was shopping at my local grocery store as usual. Everything looked fine, the staff there were still nice and willing to help, fresh food were piled on shelves, I was getting everything I needed. Happy experience in such a critical moment, right? Until I lined up waiting for checking out, I thought so too. Due to the social distancing policy, the line was longer than it used to be, so while I was looking for a good spot, I noticed a white guy stangding quite close to me, trying talking to me. I didn’t hear it clearly and just left for another checkout counter. Again, I found this man ignoring social distancing and standing right behind me looking anxious and uneasy. I said “hello”, he stared back, left then came back. As I almost finished checking out, he again ignored social distancing, came up to the counter and talked. This time I heard it well. The cashier told us he was doing something stupid today. He went to the bank without wearing gloves so he had to use lots of hand sanitizer. The white man came up and said, “with the shortage of all the medical stuff, the masks should be left for the frontline workers.” He was talking to me, why? Because I was wearing a face mask, specifically, an earloop face mask.

I found his behavior ridiculous. First, he was assuming me hoarding lots of surgical masks and people like me caused the shortage and put all the medical staff at great risk. In truth, no. I didn’t panic buy face masks since the outbreak. My mask was bought last year when I had a bad cough. I only had a few and kept sanitizing and reusing them this past month. Actually this didn’t irritate me that much. Right now is a tough time for everyone and people want to help, want to put their self-claimed right opinions out there. It’s okay. He didn’t know me, his lecturing was not pleasant to me but still fine with me. It is the other underling assumption really got me and puzzled me that people don’t need to wear masks unless you are sick or taking care of patients with suspected infection. Wearing a mask is wrong. WHO’s guide said so, CDC said so, all the experts in the United States said so.

On Feb. 29, the U.S. Surgeon General, Jerome M. Adams, M.D., warned Americans, via Twitter: “STOP BUYING MASKS!” He emphasized that masks don’t help prevent the spread of coronavirus in the general public. In the U.S., where there is a severe shortage of masks and other protective equipment, health officials want to ensure that the healthcare workers who are caring for the sick and getting the most benefit from masks are able to access them.

While I absolutely respect the experts here, let’s look at the logic. Healthcare workers need the masks the most because the masks can protect them from being infected. So masks do providing protection. Healthy people don’t need the masks because they don’t know how to use them properly, and masks only work when you wash hands frequently and not touching your face. To make it clear, masks give protection? Yes. General public wear them? No. Why? Not because they are no use, the real reason is that PPE is a limited resource and healthcare workers are our priority. People in Asian countries like China, Taiwan, South Korean, and Japan always wear masks during the flu season. Just after the coronavirus outbreak in China, Taiwan basically nationalized manufacturing and distribution of surgical masks to make sure everyone can get their own. China required everyone who goes out in the public wearing a mask, otherwise you would get a fine. I don’t want to be misinformed. I agree the general public don’t need to wear surgical masks but the reason behind has to be clear! Masks work well, the problem is that America doesn’t have enough masks for all people.

Just days after my incident at the grocery store, things have changed completely. Today mayors of LA and NYC both updated guidelines on face masks,

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti (D) on Wednesday called on the city’s millions of residents to start covering their faces whenever they are out in public as part of an effort to combat the outbreak of the novel coronavirus.

Garcetti said on Twitter that the decision was guided by data showing that many of those infected with the virus are asymptomatic.

Yes! Given the fact that the virus has already been widespread in our communities, everyone covering their mouth and nose is important. Now, wearing a home made mask or a regular dust-proof mask do not shield the virus from you, but they can reduce the amount of droplets you may get from others. More importantly, wearing a mask, no matter which kind, can prevent you infecting others. Many people who tested positive have shown no symptoms, which made CDC’s no masks for the healthy is so out dated. So, WEAR YOUR MASK! That’s the right thing to do at this moment.

May 15 Updates

Who would know just a month ago, wearing a surgical mask could be a sign of selfishness, and now wearing a mask, now matter what kind, no body cares anymore, is showing that you respect others. So don’t be so sure about everything, and authorities and experts can be wrong when facing a new crisis.

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