Why You Should Wear a Mask

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Emilie Matthews, Managing Editor

Over the past couple of months, the topic of wearing a mask has been hotly debated, with one side claiming that being forced to wear a mask is infringing on their right to bodily autonomy and the other arguing that it is a simple courtesy meant to help keep others safe. No matter what people say, it is an indisputable fact that wearing a mask does help prevent the spread of the Coronavirus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) highly recommends wearing a mask, stating, This recommendation is based on what we know about the role respiratory droplets play in the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19, paired with emerging evidence from clinical and laboratory studies that shows masks reduce the spray of droplets when worn over the nose and mouth.”

The United States is currently in the third wave of the Coronavirus Pandemic and according to the COVID Tracking Program, 83,010 new cases were reported on October 23, surpassing the previous single-day record of 76,843 cases reported on July 17 during the second wave. Unfortunately, a new study published by Nature Medicine and conducted by researchers at the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation predicts that the death toll will continue to increase. “Projections of current non-pharmaceutical intervention strategies by state—with social distancing mandates reinstated when a threshold of 8 deaths per million population is exceeded (reference scenario)—suggest that, cumulatively, 511,373 (469,578–578,347) lives could be lost to COVID-19 across the United States by 28 February 2021.” With an estimated 300,000 increase in the death toll within the next four months, there is one question in mind: what can we do to prevent this? The answer is really quite simple and has been the CDC’s main recommendation for months now. According to Nature Science, achieving universal mask-wearing (95% mask use in public) could potentially save 130,000 lives. In the study, three possible scenarios were evaluated and under all three, the United States is anticipated to face a continued public health challenge from the COVID-19 pandemic well into 2021, with “populous states in particular potentially facing high levels of illness, deaths and ICU demands as a result of the disease.” Although these predictions are not very inspiring, once again, there is a way to help or prevent this from happening, and it comes in the form of a mask. Nature Science states, “achieving near-universal mask use could delay, or in many states, possibly prevent, this threshold from being reached and has the potential to save the most lives while minimizing damage to the economy.”

Although the future may not seem very bright, there is a way to do your part and help protect others. Wearing a mask may be uncomfortable or irritating, but the benefits greatly outweigh the disadvantages, and if hundreds of thousands of lives could be saved, isn’t it worth it?