From the outset of the coronavirus in the United States in early 2020, I was cautious about adhering to the Centers for Disease Control guidelines for Americans’ response to it. I felt the threat was real and was determined that I would do all I could to avoid being infected.
Among all the other precautions that I took, I wore facemasks as religiously as anyone. Some I bought. Some I sewed. Some had elastic ear-loops. Some had long fabric straps. Yet, I contracted COVID-19 accompanied by its classic symptoms. Cough for several days. Low grade fever. Early on, some gastric distress. Some wheezing. Extreme fatigue. And complete loss of the sense of smell. Fortunately I did, however, manage to avoid hospitalization and serious complications.
I have had time in the ensuing days to rethink my response to a question I heard voiced by some proponents of wearing a facial covering over the mouth and nose, namely, “What’s the big deal? Why can’t everyone just wear a mask?” Maybe it does sound like a simple, straight forward request.
Actually, even though I agree that wearing a mask can help curb the spread of this highly contagious disease, perhaps it is time for us to admit that it is a big deal to a lot of people. And for a number of reasons.
For those who wear hearing aids, as I do, straps around the ears increase the chance of losing the device. When I stepped out of a doctor’s office after having worn a blue and white disposable paper mask with elastic ear straps for the very first time, I instinctively began to pull off the straps as I headed toward my car. Out popped one of my hearing aids onto the concrete pavement. Fortunately, a person in the nail salon in the suite adjacent to my doctor’s saw that I had obviously lost something and came out to help. She spotted my missing treasure. And if you know the retail price of hearing aids, you understand that I do mean treasure!
What about individuals who wear glasses? Are face masks a big deal for them? Absolutely. Personally I primarily need my glasses when I read. Thus if I’m going into my neighborhood pharmacy and want to be able to read the labels, I need glasses along with the required mask. I have yet to find the perfect solution for preventing my glasses from fogging up when so paired. For those who need vision correction by wearing glasses all the time and are under school/work restrictions of keeping the mouth and nose covered for the greater part of the day, glasses worn with a mask can be a challenge.
One last group of persons I’ll mention who are suffering greatly from the mask mandate are the deaf. Imagine that you use American (or other nationality) Sign Language as your primary means of communication but still want to be able to interact with hearing friends. You depend greatly upon lip reading and picking up facial cues. Neither is possible when your friends’ faces are covered.
So, I’ve changed my view a bit when I hear someone complain about mask-wearing compliance and she or he says, “Why can’t everyone just wear a mask? What’s the big deal?” My answer now is, “It is a big deal and it requires some sacrifice. But it’s something we need to do, at least for the present time, to help protect ourselves as well as others.”