Opinion: Wearing a mask is a great way to promote public health


Andrea Elsholz, Print Editor-in-Chief

Driving through downtown Fenton, there is an array of joggers, restaurant goers and, most unfortunately, hordes of Unlock Michigan booths and people who refuse to properly wear a mask. 

COVID-19 is a respiratory virus, meaning it largely attacks the lungs and respiratory system and it is spread through exposure to respiratory droplets, such as mucus or saliva, of those who are infected. A study conducted by the Mayo Clinic reports that when a fabric mask containing multiple layers of fabric is worn, the layers catch the respiratory droplets of the wearer, preventing them from getting out into the air. Masks made of fabric and surgical masks also protect the wearer by filtering out larger particles in the air, like mucus droplets, thus preventing many respiratory droplets from reaching the wearer. N95 facial coverings, worn by healthcare providers, protect the wearer from 95 percent of germs, as the name suggests. Considering that individuals with COVID can start spreading the virus before they show symptoms or that they could be completely asymptomatic (where no symptoms are ever shown, but they are still infected), wearing a mask is an incredibly important step for the public to take.

According to a story by the National Public Radio, 172 COVID studies were analyzed to find that mask-wearing significantly decreases viral spread, and it is considered to be one of the best non-pharmaceutical combatants of the virus. With all of the evidence that supports the benefits of mask wearing, the refusal to wear a mask properly is, quite frankly, childish. It is valuing temporary personal convenience over global health and safety, which is incredibly conceited and careless. Containing this dangerous notion that the health of other individuals does not matter more than a temporary discomfort of having to wear a facial covering is almost as important as containing the pandemic itself.

Refusing to wear a mask inside businesses is a sign of disrespect. Workers are risking their personal health and safety to provide goods and services for consumers that they care about. The personal choice to not wear a mask is not a personal choice at all, because it puts all of these workers, who depend on the income gained from their work, at risk of exposure. An individual worker can only do so much to protect themselves and their families; a lot of that protection depends on the personal choices of the customers they serve and interact with. 

According to Newsday, New York has had less than 1 percent of COVID-19 tests come back positive for nearly a month, even though tests have been conducted in high numbers in New York. What is New York doing exactly? After New York experienced over 425,000 cases with 32,000 COVID deaths, as reported by the New York Times, the state passed much stricter guidelines–– and they assured that these regulations would be enforced by placing penalties against businesses who were inactive in promoting the mandatory mask orders. Refusal to wear a mask in a public indoor space can result in fines up to $1,000 for the party refusing to comply with the state orders. If the businesses fail to enforce the public safety protocols, they can receive these fines as well. 

While this may seem strict to some, New York has had positive results, results that only showed after the regulations were put in place. To contextualize this, New York reported that on Sept.1, out of 88,447 tests, 708 were confirmed positive (0.8 percent), five had died and 455 were hospitalized, according to Newsday. To compare this to April, the average daily death rate was around 800, with 19,000 hospitalized per day. The decision to pass stricter regulations not only slowed the spread, but it has prevented hundreds of deaths per day. 

While the debate over compulsory mask-wearing in businesses and public spaces is heavily involved in politics, it should not be a partisan issue. There should not be a political divide over whether public health is a priority or a debate over whether certain laws need to be followed based on who creates them. Hatred for women in power does not justify ignoring state orders that were made to promote public safety. Choosing to wear a mask is not betraying a political party and it is not giving up a sense of freedom. It is actively making a choice to join a mass effort to protect the health and well-being of a nation— an idea that is far more patriotic than refusing to wear a mask. 

A final note to keep in mind: a facial covering may at times be uncomfortable, but rest assured, a ventilator is far, far worse.