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Why I Plan to Continue Wearing a Mask in Public

No bones about it, wearing a mask can be annoying. I assumed my iLASIK corrective vision surgery would end the days of repositioning things sliding off the low bridge of my nose. I once was happy to have small ears that laid neat and flat. Wearing my hair up used to be out of convenience or laziness, not of necessity, so I could coil string around my head. And I thought that I’d be happy to bid my masks — cute as many of them are — farewell, as we flattened the curve and cleared it.

But it turns out … I’m not quite ready yet. And I’m not the only one.

Although I was fully vaccinated as soon as possible, I have continued to wear a mask indoors in public, and I have many reasons why. Some of them are for me, and some of them are for those around me.

I like not catching colds.

Thanks to a fully remote worklife, limited contact with strangers, and zero exposure to errant spittle, I’ve been sinusitis-, upper respiratory infection-, and bronchitis-free since masking became the norm. Flu rates have been down, not just because the annual flu shot is so widely available now, but also because no one is sneezing on anyone else. And for folks who suffer from allergies, I’ve been told their nasal passages have been blissfully clear for the first spring in some time. So I’m pro- keeping up this winning streak.

I’m not convinced the risk is over.

If we’ve learned anything from #MeToo, #BlackLivesMatter, and #StopAAPIHate, it’s that just because something isn’t in the headlines anymore doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Sure, the numbers are down. Herd immunity is building as the majority of people are going in for the jab. But quietly, there are variants and strains we hear whispers of, and having contracted the flu once on its second loop — despite receiving that year’s shot — it’s not a boomerang I want to be caught unaware of.

We don’t know enough about long-term immunity.

We only know about how long our COVID-19 immunity lasts based on how long scientists have been studying it … and that’s not long. That’s not to say development was pushed out prematurely; it most certainly needed to be expedited, and it went through the rigorous testing procedures like any other FDA-approved drug. But we can't be sure of its long-term effectiveness, and if I can give myself an added layer of protection by skipping the lipstick and slapping on a whimsical mask, why not?

My trust in my fellow man has been broken.

As much as the pandemic brought out the best in some people, it sadly brought out the worst in many others. There isn’t a soul in America who isn't aware of the infighting between groups, communities, friends, and families over the issue of wearing a piece of fabric over part of their faces. Knowing how many have opposed the vaccines and conspiracy theories questioning the reality of COVID-19, I no longer trust the strangers around me. I know I’ve been vaccinated. But I don’t know who else has, and I’m not willing to bet my lungs on it.

It’s the rule.

Many businesses still have signs posted that request their customers wear masks, and I’m a firm believer of house rules. If “No shoes, no shirt, no service” is an acceptable edict, so should wearing masks. During this pandemic, I feel like the safest and most respectful course of action is to cater to the lowest common denominator — the folks with the greatest fear. A mask is an inconvenience to me. But to not wear one is a potential panic attack to someone else, and disrespectful to where I am.

I worry about being a carrier.

Being immune doesn’t guarantee I can’t still unknowingly host the disease. The CDC does say that the vaccines may keep asymptomatic carriers from spreading COVID-19, but that’s not enough for me. And it’s not an assumption I’m willing to bank a stranger’s immunocompromised sister, cancer patient mother, elderly father, sick grandfather, or any other human life on. Because a pandemic isn't only about us as individuals, it's about society, and humanity ... every life that touches a person who could become infected. Until solid stats say otherwise, I prefer not to have a shadow of a doubt on my conscience.

Much of America is ready to lose the face coverings, but I’m going to take my time about it. Those old wives were right: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. 

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