Accepting face masks: There is no going back to ‘normal’ for Western nations.
Mixed-messaging, COVID-19 Delta variant, and wearing masks.
Back in May, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) said that vaccinated people could safely go without masks in most places. Then, in June, the World Health Organization says — Not that fast! And it recommends we continue wearing a mask due to the rise of the Delta variant. All of this as movie theaters are opening back up and concerts are starting to happen.
What do you do? Are you one of the many people that struggle with the social anxiety around mask-wearing protocols? That’s because, unlike many Asian countries, Western nations haven’t normalized face wearing and have been opposing it since at least the 1910s.
Finally, though, that might be changing.
Many Americans are still wearing masks as often as they did before. However, we are discovering that accepting masks as a part of our daily life is the only way forward if we want to get to something close to the previous ‘normal’ or avoid that it changes again because of a pandemic.
But, how to embrace this new normal? First, personalize your masks, make them part of your outfit, understand that wearing face masks work, and never forget some of the benefits of wearing a mask: to hide emotions and avoiding recognition at the farmer’s market.
The COVID-19 Delta variant is not a joke.
Public Health England has said the Delta (Indian) variant is 64% more transmissible than the Alpha (Kent) variant and that vaccines are less effective against it. The Delta variant, the most transmissible yet, is not only a huge problem in the UK, but it can also be a huge threat to the USA.
While almost 40% of Americans haven’t changed their mask-wearing habits, there is a large percentage of COVID-apathetic people and are at most risk of not only getting but transmitting the virus. Also, the mixed messaging that we are getting from the different organizations, and the recent relaxation of mask guidelines, might not be helping.
Masks work. They have always worked.
But we have learned. Vaccinating, wearing face masks, and social distancing works. They are the most effective ways to prevent coronavirus spread.
Because so many people are still wearing masks, I would like to believe that we all understand that mask-wearing shouldn’t go anywhere, and it’s part of who we are now. It’s a habit, it’s part of our culture, and we need to embrace it.
Unlike Japan, historically, that hasn’t been the case for most Western nations. Anti-mask movements go back to at least 1918–19 during the flu pandemic. Then, mask-wearing was promoted in the West, then exported to Japan. Japan kept it, but it disappeared in the West.
Back then, mask-wearing ordinances mainly popped up in the western American states, and while compliance was high, many people complained about them. Even officials were caught in public without a mask. The apathy and lack of sense of urgency about face coverings happened as soon as the war was over. Remember that we were still fighting World War during the Spanish flu, and the message then was “wearing a mask protects the troops.”
Western Nations finally accept face masks as the new normal.
Here is my take. Yes, masks can be awkward if you have never used one before, DAILY. Also, it can be hard to hear you (especially if you mumble, like me.) But I will never give up the opportunity of having a mask with me when I am going to be around people. Not only because I know I am helping reduce the spread of viruses but because WHO wants to give up some of the additional benefits of wearing a mask, like:
- Wearing a mask to hide emotions
- Wearing a mask to avoid people when you just simply don’t want to talk to people. Introverts.
- Wearing a mask to hide your garlic breath or lack of make-up
- Wearing a mask so you can make a fashion or political statement
…. or just simply show off your style and who you are with your face masks!
If the masks are here to stay, we might also ensure they look good, feel good, and represent who we are.
I’m sure I will not be the only one who thinks this way, giving me comfort. So get vaccinated when you can, keep wearing a mask, and just … be yourself and be nice, be nice to someone’s grandma, will you?