Is wearing a face mask mandatory? What does this mean for our freedom? And how Much Protection Does it Really Cover?
As states loosen the covid laws, businesses start to reopen, and we’re finally released to venture out, we’re being told we must wear masks if we want to enjoy this freedom.
Though we’re reopening and returning to our lives, the disease has not gone away. With the current global number of confirmed cases at 9.49 million, 2.45 in the US, we’re still faced with the threat of covid every time we go out.
There are two dangers: One is that we can contract the disease from anyone no matter how healthy they look. And the other is that we can pass it to others without even knowing it. Remember, now that we know how the coronavirus spreads, we know that anyone can be a carrier even if they show no signs of having the disease.
For these reasons, we are being urged by the CDC to wear masks in public.
How do Face Masks Help?
According to the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, if 95% of Americans wore face masks in public , 33,000 deaths by covid could be prevented by October 1st.
As Dr. Christopher Murray, director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, put it, “Wearing masks can reduce transmission of the virus by as much as 50%, and those who refuse are putting their lives, their families, their friends, and their communities at risk.”
“Cloth face coverings are meant to protect other people in case the wearer is unknowingly infected but does not have symptoms,” said the Center for Disease control (CDC).
Personally, that’s what I think of when I’m walking the aisles at the grocery store, especially every time I pass an elderly couple. I don’t want to put them at risk.
So… Is Wearing a Face Mask Mandatory?
There is no federal mandate requiring us to wear face masks in public. But your state might have its own mandate. In fact there are many states that have passed such laws.
Here are the states requiring face masks in public as of June 25th, 2020:
- California – required in public, indoor spaces, while shopping, on public transportation, or seeking medical care.
- Connecticut – in public spaces when social distancing isn’t possible, and while using public transportation.
- Delaware – in public, on public transportation. Children under 12 not required.
- District of Columbia – when social distancing isn’t possible, in grocery stores, pharmacies, takeout restaurants. Public transportation – when six feet distancing is not possible.
- Hawaii – employees and customers of essential businesses. Violations – $5,000 fine and up to a year in prison.
- Illinois – while shopping at essential businesses, on public transportation, picking up food, or visiting the doctor.
- Kentucky – businesses have the right to turn customers away who are not wearing a mask.
- Maine – in any indoor public spaces.
- Maryland – while using Maryland’s public transit. Employees of essential businesses, and customers over the age of 9.
- Massachusetts – both indoor and outdoor spaces where six feet distancing isn’t doable.
- Michigan – in all public settings. Businesses can deny entry to those not wearing face coverings.
- Nevada – Anyone in public space must wear a mask.
- New Jersey – Businesses must provide face masks to employees and deny entry to customers who refuse to wear them. On New Jersey’s trains, buses, and light rails.
- New Mexico – all adults in all public settings, except while eating, drinking, exercising, or for medical reasons.
- New York – in public. Everyone over the age of 2.
- Pennsylvania – Essential businesses must provide employee mask and require them to wear them. Customers must wear masks or be denied entry.
- Rhode Island – all residents over 2 years old – indoor and outdoor public settings.
Check with your local government for updates or other restrictions.
Mandates aside, it really boils down to how much freedom you want. If you want to go to a ball game, or out with some friends, or get on a plane, you’re going to need a mask.
But What About Our Freedom of Choice?
Many feel that being forced to wear a mask imposes on our freedom of choice. And I totally get it. No one likes to be told what to do, least of all us freedom lovers. But, not wearing a mask could be what ultimately strips us of our freedoms.
Surgeon General Jerome Adams tweeted Sunday morning, “Some feel face coverings infringe on their freedom of choice- but if more wear them, we’ll have MORE freedom to go out.”
Some feel face coverings infringe on their freedom of choice- but if more wear them, we’ll have MORE freedom to go out.— Jerome Adams (@JeromeAdamsMD) June 14, 2020
Face coverings ➡️ less asymptomatic viral spread ➡️ more places open, and sooner!
Exercise and promote your freedom by choosing to wear a face covering! pic.twitter.com/3A4fW2qmN8
Ultimately, that’s what we want – to be able to go out and enjoy our freedom once again.
How Much Protection does a Face Mask Really Cover?
I think the real question is do face masks really slow the spread of the coronavirus?
The short answer is yes, with the way covid spreads, when you combine wearing a face mask with other preventative measures like washing your hands often and social distancing, you can help slow the spread of the coronavirus.
If you want to avoid contracting the disease yourself or inadvertently giving it to others, take all the precautions: wear a mask, wash your hands frequently, and keep social distancing for as long as the threat is live.
Different Types of Masks Offer Different Protection
The things to look for in a mask are quality, reusable filter and exhalation valves. And you want it to be comfortable yet tight enough that it doesn’t leak. There are three types of masks:
- Surgical Masks – or medical masks are the loose-fitting disposable masks. They filter out large particles and protect you from large droplets. The US Food and Drug Administration has not approved surgical masks as a means for protection against the coronavirus. But they can provide some protection when the R-95 Face Mask is not available. Surgical masks are in short supply, but you can still find some on Amazon
- Cloth Masks – have been recommended because they are easy to find and you can make them from tightly-woven cotton materials. That can help slow the spread. The problem with homemade and cloth masks, however, is that they leak. T-shirt material only filters about 60% of air particulates. You can find them in abundant supply here.
- N95 masks – a type of respirator that offers more protection than surgical or cloth masks. It can filter out both large and small particles and block 95% of very small particles. It makes it easier to breathe and releases unfiltered air when you breathe. Some argue the valves don’t prevent the wearer from spreading the virus. But, there is one you can get that allows you to close the values when you can’t prevent social distancing: The R95 Reusable Face Mask. R95 masks are in short supply.
How to Wear a Face Mask
- Wear your mask over your mouth and nose.
- Make sure it’s snug by tying it around your head or looping it over your ears.
- Don’t touch your mask while you’re wearing it; if you do, wash your hands.
- Remove your mask by untying or unlooping. Don’t touch the face of the mask.
- Wash hands immediately after removing your mask.
Face masks are not a substitute for social distancing. Children under the age of two, and people with trouble breathing should not wear one.
Ultimately, the time of covid is not over. Though we’re experiencing more freedoms now, we must wear masks to protect ourselves and others and help slow the spread. So, be smart and stay safe.