April Fools’: Coronavirus: Masks, fear or fashion?

(Maritsa Patrinos/Courtesy)

The other day at work, I served a table of four people. Mom, dad, two daughters. Mom had on a personalized facial mask, pink and purple floral material with pink ear straps.

Now hear me out, you come out in public, to a restaurant and use a cup with no straw, direct mouth contact on the rim. Don’t mind the lipstick marks from the last customer. You use plates and cutlery that has been barely run through the dishwasher in the back. You wait in the crowded lobby for 35 minutes for a table on a Saturday night. If you were REALLY worried about getting sick, you would have stayed home. You would have made your own food and used your own clean dishes. If you were REALLY worried about getting sick, why are only you wearing a mask? Wouldn’t you also want both your young daughters and husband wearing one too?

Which leads me to believe, are people wearing these silly masks because they are genuinely afraid, or because they see the masses doing it and feel like they have to too. Are people seeing these masks as another chance to personalize their outfit, or as an actual preventative measure against this virus? 

According to Dr. Willaim Schaffner, the masks “are not effective against respiratory illnesses like the flu and COVID-19. If it were, the CDC would have recommended it years ago. But they don’t, because the CDC makes science-based recommendations.”

The CDC states that these masks do not form a snug seal around the wearers face. Some people state they wear it to keep from touching their face. This has failed to stop people from doing that, if anything has made it worse. With the constant adjusting and moving the mask to eat or drink, the facial touching has actually increased.

“The CDC has changed their recommendations on masks so many times I don’t buy anything they say anymore. One day it’s protective, then the next they say it’s not effective enough. If they work so well, why do I need to wear one if everyone else has one on, they should be safe right?” said Chris Pappas.

“Lynn Bufka, a clinical psychologist and senior director at the American Psychological Association, suspects that people are clinging to masks the same reason they knock on wood or avoid walking under ladders. ‘Even if experts are saying it’s not going to make a difference, a little part of people’s brains are thinking, well it can’t hurt. Maybe I’ll cut my risk just a little bit, so it’s worth it to keep wearing it.’ In this sense, wearing a mask is suspicious behavior. If someone wore a mask while the illness was spreading and the user did not get sick, they may credit the mask for keeping them safe. Seeing people around you wearing masks when you’re not, can also heighten anxiety about coronavirus and make it seem like the virus is nearby and spreading even if it’s not. It could make you feel like, wait, am I missing something?” says an article on Time.com. 

“I mean, I don’t know. I see everyone wearing one when I go to the store or driving around, it makes me feel like people are scared of me when I don’t wear one. It’s like I’m the odd man out and people give nasty looks. If I remember to bring one, I’ll wear a mask just so people don’t call me out.” said Gabrielle Singer.

Celebrities like Bella Hadid, Gwyneth Paltrow, Steve Harvey, Kate Hudson, Selena Gomez, Brody Jenner, Summer Walker, Sophia Richie, Austin Mahone, have all posted pictures on social media sporting bejeweled masks, head to toe plastic wrap, bottles of Purell, plastic gloves and captions like #travel2020, “Wash your hands!”, and #Paranoid. Paltrow posted a selfie referencing her role in the 2011 movie Contagion with the caption ‘I’ve already been in this movie.” on her Instagram account. With so many celebrities promoting the use of these masks, people will think it’s trendy instead of practical. There are now shortages of these masks and hospitals are unable to give them to people who are actually sick. 

If you are genuinely afraid of this virus getting to you, take the same precautions that you already should have been doing all along. Common sense is to keep your hands away from your mouth, cough or sneeze into your elbow ditch, wash your hands often, and don’t be gross. We are taught these skills at a young age and it seems as if a lot of adults have forgotten their hygiene manners. So many people are offended at the mere sound of someone coughing nowadays, that they forget to take the same measures themselves.