The 21 best arguments for wearing a mask
COVID-19 is not on its second wave in the United States. It’s still on the first. In major states such as California and Texas, cases are on the rise. In fact, there were more new cases of COVID-19 reported in the United States today than on the day when many parts of the country went into quarantine. Those of us who can stay home should still stay home. But when we’re out, we can help thwart the spread of COVID-19 by wearing a mask. Yes, there has been mixed messaging around masks. The U.S. Surgeon General first recommended against wearing masks in February before the CDC did an about-face in April. Now, the global scientific community agrees that wearing a mask is crucial to battling COVID-19.
Here are 21 reasons to wear a mask, addressing just about every naysaying argument imaginable. Of course, you already know that you should wear a mask. So share this story with someone who might not.
MASKS SAVED US IN PREVIOUS PANDEMICS More than a century ago, a nightmare plague threatened to destroy the world. Then within the decade, the Spanish flu tried again. Why didn’t either succeed? In part because a doctor developed a mask, and the world began to wear it. [Read more] [Source Images: onlyyouqj/iStock, 3M]EVERYONE ELSE IS DOING IT If you aren’t wearing a mask in public at this point, you are in the extreme minority. A Gallup poll discover that 86% of adults had worn a mask when out of their house in the last week. [Read more] MASKS ACTUALLY HELP THE ECONOMY Maybe you don’t think that you need to wear a mask for yourself or others. Okay. But what about the economy? A recent study by economists at Goldman Sachs found that wearing masks could prevent the U.S. GDP from dropping by 5%. Don’t think that’s a lot of money? It is. $1,027,000,000,000 to be exact. (That’s over a trillion dollars.) [Read more]
YOU CAN BUY THEM CHEAP . . . Some companies are charging $50 for a mask, or more—which is absurd for a tiny piece of cloth. Old Navy has you covered with a five pack of reusable cotton masks for $12.50. [Read more] . . . SERIOUSLY, CHEAP! If Old Navy isn’t your thing, that’s okay! There are other inexpensive options, too. You can even get a three-pack of organic cotton masks for $24. [Read more]
MASKS AREN’T PERFECT, BUT THEY ARE WAY BETTER THAN NOTHING Look, the truth is that your loosely fitted cotton or paper mask isn’t guaranteed to protect you and those around you from COVID-19. Even the gold standard N95 mask—which can trap at least 95% of airborne particles passing through it—can be tricky to get sealed perfectly to your face. And without a perfect seal, there are gaps for viruses to flow in and out. But the bottom line is that masks are better than no masks. [Read more]
MASKS ARE A DEFENSE AGAINST LOUSY SOCIAL DISTANCING The sad reality is that as more people wear masks, they might start worrying less about social distancing. That’s a mistake. Also, it’s all the more reason to keep wearing a mask. Other people may be careless, but you’re smarter than that. [Read more]
THEY’RE FASHIONABLE Hazmat, dystopian fashion has been on the rise on catwalks for years. Don’t miss this moment to embrace coolness without looking like a try-hard in the process. [Read more]
YOU CAN STILL DRINK, IF THAT’S YOUR THING We get it. It’s 85 degrees outside. You’ve got your mask on. And all you want to do is take a sip of a refreshing grapefruit White Claw. Well, grab a straw and one of these masks designed with a little door so you can still sip. [Read more] YES, MASKS ARE ANNOYING TO CLEAN. BUT YOU CAN STERILIZE ONE IN YOUR MICROWAVE While you can reuse masks of all kinds, most experts recommend some sort of cleaning or sterilization procedure in between wearing. Look no further than your microwave. Following up on your good hygiene with some popcorn is optional but encouraged. [Read more] [Source Image: Nerthuz/iStock]EVERY MASK IS AN HOMAGE TO HIDDEN FIGURES Lien-teh Wu was the Malaysian doctor who proved masks can thwart airborne plagues. Sara Little Turnball was the designer who suggested that 3M learn how to mold disposable masks that fit on your face, introducing the idea that air filters don’t need to be big helmets. And Peter Tsai is the Taiwanese American materials scientist who figured out how to add an electrostatic charge to filters so they can snatch viruses from the air, even when those viruses are so small they should sneak right through the holes inside an N95. Wearing a mask is an ode to their accomplishments. [Read more] TOTALLY GROSS: COVID-19 DROPLETS CAN TRAVEL 20 FEET “But I’m standing 6 feet away! I don’t need a mask.” Wrong. COVID-19 droplets leaving someone’s mouth can travel 20 feet in a one mile-per-hour breeze. Masks can help mitigate breathing these droplets out and in. [Read more] BAD VENTILATION IN BUILDINGS FORCES YOU TO BREATHE OLD AIR Many buildings in the United States have terrible air circulation. Instead of pumping in fresh air, they recirculate old air that can make us sick. Hospitals aren’t exempt. Only 2% to 4% of hospitals offer negative pressure rooms, which use vacuum pressure to contain the viruses you exhale inside its doors. So don’t believe for a second that your random office building manager understands epidemiology well enough to ensure your safety. [Read more]
BAD VENTILATION ACROSS MOST TRAVEL ISN’T MUCH BETTER Oh yeah, air on planes and cruise ships is pretty gnarly, too. Wear the mask. [Read more]
HUMIDITY ISN’T HIGH ENOUGH IN MANY BUILDINGS TO STOP AIRBORNE VIRUSES A major factor in controlling the spread of airborne viruses is keeping humidity between 40% to 60%. Air with this much moisture helps aerosols drop to the ground faster, rather than evaporating into smaller aerosols that can float in the air for hours at a time. Unfortunately, many buildings keep humidity far lower than that, increasing the risk of transmission to people inside. [Read more]
TWO WORDS: TOILET PLUMES When someone flushes a toilet in a public bathroom, the urine and fecal matter inside is aerosolized into a “plume” that others in the restroom breathe in. Now, maybe you like to breathe poop! No judgment here! We just prefer to wear a mask. [Read more]
EXERCISE IN A MASK? SURE! Believe it or not, it is possible to exercise in a mask. But you will have to pick the right mask. Chances are, you will not be able to exercise in an N95, because you will breathe so hard, you’ll break the seal around your face (and that seal is why it’s so effective in the first place). But cotton can offer a functional alternative while exercising. And it’s still better than nothing. [Read more]
YOU CAN AVOID SWEATY HOT FACE It was a nasty, muggy Fourth of July. But my cotton mask offered notable protection while providing enough breathability to stay comfortable. We have plenty of tips on staying cool by picking the right mask and caring for it properly. [Read more]
MASKS DON’T NEED TO MEAN FOGGY GLASSES Masks fog glasses, yes. But with a little DIY hacking, that doesn’t need to be the case. Now you can live your best mask life and actually see too! [Read more] People who are hearing-impaired often rely on lipreading to make sense of what you say. There’s actually a mask for that! You just need a clear window where your mouth is. [Read more]
YOU DON’T WANT TO KILL OTHER PEOPLE, RIGHT? In light of everything we’ve learned about COVID-19 since January, it’s important to remember one point in particular. We can be contagious with the virus for up to 72 hours before we have symptoms, over which time we can unwittingly make dozens of other people sick. COVID-19 isn’t just an illness; it’s a gaslighter. It makes us think we’re well until, suddenly, we realize we’re not. Wearing a mask protects the people around you. It is the neighborly thing to do. Because even though the U.S. has reopened, the pandemic is still infecting tens of thousands of people every day. We are not out of the woods yet. ABOUT THE AUTHOR Mark Wilson is a senior writer at Fast Company who has written about design, technology, and culture for almost 15 years. His work has appeared at Gizmodo, Kotaku, PopMech, PopSci, Esquire, American Photo and Lucky Peach More