Wear A Non-Medical Mask? Why?

Depending on which country or which part of the country you live, wearing a mask or a face covering may or may not be common. I have friends who tell me they get an ugly look if they wear a mask. Other friends who don’t wear one tell me it is the opposite where they are. Some are seen as paranoid and selfish for protecting themselves when they wear a mask and others are ridiculed as clueless when they don’t wear one. Some are called sick. Others are accused of making a political statement.

A collection of hand-made cloth masks
Hand-made cloth masks

Deciding on wearing a mask, pandemic or not, is not easy. It is awkward and annoying to wear one. But as lock downs come to an end across the world and as we mingle more, often without social distancing, questions about wearing a mask become urgent: Should you wear a non-medical mask and why?

An analogy helps. Suppose you are a cigarette smoker and you are in the company of people dear to you, friends, neighbors, or aged relatives who don’t smoke. When you wish to smoke, as a courtesy, you excuse yourself from your delightful company and go outside or to a designated smoking area and pipe up. I have relatives who are smokers who do exactly that when in the company of others. Why? Because most smokers know that there is a significant health risk to people around them from passive smoking. The risk is not limited to the smoker. The dangers of passive smoking are clear enough that we understand when bars, restaurants, hotels, offices, and stores do not permit smoking to protect their workers and customers.

With this pandemic, it is like we are all smoking invisible Corona cigarettes, some of which are tinged with the virus! The virus spreads mostly through the air like smoke, but unlike smoke we can’t see it. Now re-imagine yourself in the company of people dear to you, except now you’re smoking an invisible Corona cigarette! You can’t know if you are smoking a deadly one, because healthy-looking people are known to have the virus before they exhibit any symptoms. Nor can you know when you are going to smoke the invisible Corona cigarette and spew out these invisible, potentially virus-tinged tiny droplets, which is exactly what happens when you sneeze or cough unexpectedly or talk loudly. These respiratory droplets linger in the air longer and travel farther with more force than most of us imagine! When you sneeze or cough, it is hard for those around you to get away from a sudden burst of droplets. What is worse, even if they are all wearing typical, non-medical masks (perhaps because they have read this article before you), they won’t be protected a whole lot from the fine, hostile droplets coming at them like projectiles from your invisible Corona cigarette. Only you wearing a mask can stop those droplets from getting away and doing damage to people near and dear to you!

Wearing a mask is not cowardice. It is courtesy.

Friends wear masks for friends! Perhaps also for next door neighbors and neighborhood storekeepers.

A closing thought. If you already wear a mask or if you plan to wear one after reading this bit, please wear it only when there is a legitimate health risk such as when you are in the proximity of others. Please don’t wear one just to make a statement to others who don’t!

I count among my large number of friends and relatives people of all colors, races, religions, and genders, and they are of many nationalities. They are conservative and liberal. They are capitalists and socialists. They are atheists and believers. They are vegans and meat lovers. And they have cats and dogs for pets. Many of them are close to me and I communicate with them regularly. Together they help me provide a viewpoint that is nuanced, yet direct on a range of topics.



I am an American. I care about the planet, its people and animals. I care about the oppressed and marginalized. And I care about the poor, both working and not.

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Vijay Violet

I am an American. I care about the planet, its people and animals. I care about the oppressed and marginalized. And I care about the poor, both working and not.