WEST FORK KICKAPOO - I can feel claustrophobic in a mask. Since last March my jaw feels like it’s broken. The minute the elastic goes over my ears, my mouth drops open.
“It’s like I’m a damn puppet,” I tell Dane.
We laugh, but the truth is my jaw hurts, and I’m sure it’s due to claustrophobia. When, before a surgery, the anesthesiologist put a mask on my face and told me to count to ten, it was a good thing I couldn’t count past two or I’d have been kicking, swinging and screaming.
Still, I wear a mask these days—two, in fact, because according to research two are more effective against the coronavirus, especially the more virulent variants that are emerging. Some people make fun of that—the new two-maskers joke: like wearing two condoms, in case one breaks. But in this case it’s not funny, and it is potentially deadly. (The woman who gets pregnant when a condom breaks is probably not laughing either.)
I realize some conditions prevent certain people from wearing a mask. I looked them up last March, when we began to respond to the pandemic and masks became commonplace. According to what I read, those exceptions are people with autism; people with disabilities who can’t put their masks on without help; some people with PTSD, claustrophobia, or severe anxiety; and people with facial deformities that make it impossible for them to wear a mask.
Thankfully, the overall percentage of people who can’twear a mask for those reasons is low.
I’m curious about the people for whom not wearing a mask is a personal choice. Do you think a mask doesn’t work?
It’s been demonstrated that masks help prevent people who have COVID from spreading it to others. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends wearing a mask in public settings. A mask also limits exposure to respiratory droplets and larger particles from people who may have COVID.
Both COVID and the flu are contagious respiratory illnesses, but they are caused by different viruses. Because COVID can be asymptomatic, it can spread easier, quicker, and to many more people than the flu virus. It’s also far more deadly.
If you don’t believe the experts, try an experiment. Sneeze with a mask on and again without a mask. Did the mask help contain the droplets and particulates from your sneeze?
There’s nothing inherently political about COVID. It affects all ages, sexes, races, and nationalities. Whether you lean toward the elephant or the donkey or somewhere in between makes no difference if your mother, sister, or daughter—or you—dies from COVID.
Maybe you believe COVID doesn’t exist or isn’t a threat. If so, talk to your neighbor, a friend at your church, or someone you went to school with. Chances are they have either been affected directly or had someone in their social circle affected by this deadly disease. The United States leads the world in the number of deaths due to COVID, at more than a half million.
In many countries, such as Korea and Japan, masks are commonplace in public when anyone isn’t feeling well, or during flu season. Wearing a mask there is a courtesy, something people do to protect others. That’s not silly! As for how they look, some would say they make you look smart, like a person who cares.
Health care workers, nurses especially, are burned out. They are fatigued from overwork, tired of watching people die unnecessarily, and overwrought with worry that they’ll go home and spread COVID to their own loved ones. Our hospitals can’t keep up. Many of the staff are sick with COVID.
Let’s give the medical professionals a break. Let’s give every person who works in a medical office or a hospital a break—the office folks, the cleaners, the greeters. Let’s wear our mask.
If we all stay home when we can, wear a mask when we’re in public, stay six feet apart from others whenever possible, wash our hands frequently, and make plans to get a COVID vaccination, we will get through this more quickly and with less loss of life.Mask wearing is not political. Wearing a mask is about being a human. It’s simple. It’s easy. Join the caring mask-erade.