We must expand thinking beyond personal preference. What happens when someone exempt from wearing a mask enters a public place that requires such?
Mask By Necessity
In today’s social climate, there is a polarization of viewpoints. People receive labels for each action or inaction. To be fair, some are extremists. They disregard any counter arguments or middle ground. Others are not trusting leadership because of conflicting messages regarding mask use.
Some people with questionable health circumstances do not feel comfortable masks. They are lumped into the tribe of “anti-maskers.”
With the coronavirus pandemic ravaging the world, an increasing number of public places within the U.S. are requiring masks for admission. Additionally, most states have mandatory policies for wearing face masks in public.
Stores Requiring Face Mask To Enter
- Grocery stores
- Post Office
- FedEx Office
- UPS Store
- Circle K
- Home Depot
- Home Goods
- Old Navy
- Pottery Barn
- Pottery Barn Kids
- Sam’s Club
This list is not exhaustive. Policies are changing every week. Store owners and personnel find themselves in the position of law enforcers.
Special Mask Considerations
I returned home one day and washed my reusable 3-ply mask. Then I realized I had to visit someone a block a way so I put the mask back on while damp. Tantamount to waterboarding, it impairs respiration so much that I had to pull the mask down below my nose to breathe. This is a serious coronavirus transmission protocol violation. (Never wear a cloth face mask while swimming.
Wearing masks during strenuous exertion is also uncomfortable as you require more air volume.) What I felt is what some people perceive normal dry mask wearing is like. To prevent the need to wear a damp reusable mask, I now keep a supply of new disposable masks in my car.
Laws do not require a paraplegic or someone with frequent seizures to wear a mask. Special consideration is required for deaf and hard of hearing who read lips. CDC guidelines at the time of this writing exempt these and others from wearing masks—with a doctor‘s authorization.
“Masks should NOT be worn by children under the age of 2 or anyone who has trouble breathing, is unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance.”… “Some people, such as people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, mental health conditions or other sensory sensitivities, may have challenges wearing a mask.” State governors can modify local requirements.
There is a need to better address the sign language community. A sheet of clear plastic sewn within an area cut away from face masks became popular three months after the pandemic began.
On top of the delay in creating them, Sarah Katz, a deaf writer, and others in the deaf community have also expressed concern about clear masks’ functionality. “Many complain that clear masks fog up.” This is a case where those who are not part of a group make assumptions about the effectiveness of a given solution.
What happens when someone who is legally exempt from wearing a mask enters a public place that requires such? In theory, the polycarbonate barriers at checkout counters along with the masks worn by the majority of others respecting social distancing prevail. In practice, the “anti-maskers” become the target of YouTube shaming and belittlement.
There is a 5-figure fine for harassing or impeding the activity of someone who is legally exempt from wearing a mask. Make sure you have an exemption card before enforcing this position.
New Form of Fatigue
People feel socioeconomic fatigue because of the economic deflation and shelter-in-place requirements. A larger and more insidious danger to coronavirus recovery is mask fatigue. Many people are just plain tired of wearing them. So they hang them below their chins, keep them in purses or pockets, or exclude them altogether in protest.
Mask wearing for long periods is uncomfortable. Trying to communicate exacerbates the frustration as people sound muffled and eyeglasses fog up. It is virtually impossible to wear masks while eating or drinking and masks should not be worn while swimming (for reasons I discovered when trying to wear a damp mask).
The seriousness of the pandemic and fears over a second wave requires expansion of our thinking beyond personal preference. If wearing masks for long periods is uncomfortable, make shorter trips. If we cannot wear masks in public, seek assistance of able-bodied friends and family if available to do so.
If we see an isolated person without a mask who is practicing social distancing, do not humiliate him/her. If we must wear a mask at all times to provide a public service, isolate yourself outside during 15-minute breaks for a breath of fresh air. Also consider wearing masks with better breathability (2-ply) at the sacrifice of filtration (≥3-ply).
- Anti-maskers explain themselves. vox.com/the-goods/2020/8/7/21357400/anti-mask-protest-rallies-donald-trump-covid-19 (Oct 3 2020)
- Considerations for Wearing Masks. cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/cloth-face-cover-guidance.html (Oct 3 2020)
- These are the states requiring people to wear masks when out in public. cnn.com/2020/06/19/us/states-face-mask-coronavirus-trnd/index.html (Oct 3 2020)
- Target, McDonald's, Old Navy now require face masks amid COVID-19. See the full list of businesses requiring them. usatoday.com/story/money/2020/07/16/masks-required-shopping-these-stores-walmart-target-costco-coronavirus/5446365002/ (Oct 3 2020)
- Are clear masks the way to clearer communication? The deaf community isn't so sure. news.yahoo.com/are-clear-masks-as-accessible-as-they-seem-the-deaf-community-has-a-different-idea-173716705.html (Oct 3 2020)