Masks: A reflection of the season

The controversy over face masks is just another one of the unexpected cultural phenomena that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought the United States. To me, wearing a mask is a no-brainer when you look at the science. In fact, a Yale study conducted in July showed that countries that adopted early mask usage (less than 30 days from the onset of an outbreak) experienced a lower per-capita mortality rate than countries that did not.

Personally, I don’t mind wearing protective face masks. It seems like one of the smallest steps we can take to slow the spread of COVID-19. I now own cloth masks in a myriad of colors and styles, and have a whole drawer dedicated to them. At this point in the pandemic, it seems strange to go outside without one, like going out on a snowy day without wearing gloves. And speaking of snowy days, we are in the midst of a season that inspires us to give and to spread more benevolent things like peace, kindness, and good will. Wearing a mask feels like another gift we can offer to our love ones and communities.

I’ve often found myself asking the question: Once the pandemic ends, will we still wear face masks? After 8 months of regular mask-wearing, it’s hard to imagine giving up the practice. Because even if COVID-19 is checked, do we want to continue exposing ourselves and our coworkers to the most common colds and viruses, not to mention more fatal viruses like meningitis and influenza? I already felt guilty about passing on even a mild cold, so I could see myself adopting a mask-wearing routine during flu season or when I feel a cold coming on.

As we prepare for the new year and try, even in small ways, to make the most of the holiday season, I sincerely hope that mask-wearing has and will continue to help foster a kinder, gentler public health-wise culture where we take better care of ourselves and those around us. I know it has for me.