Why has wearing a mask become such a divisive issue? (Citizen file)

Why has wearing a mask become such a divisive issue? (Citizen file)

Editorial: Mask wearing: innocuous advice has turned into polarizing war

Somehow, this innocuous recommendation has become a polarizing war for some.

Why have masks become such a divisive subject?

During the COVID-19 pandemic we’ve been asked to do a number of things to help prevent the spread of the deadly virus.

Initially, we were all asked to stay at home as much as possible in self-isolation. We have been asked to regularly wash our hands with soap and water, or to use hand sanitizer if this is not possible. We have been asked to try not to touch our faces. We’ve been asked not to go out if we are sick. We’ve been asked to stay two metres (six feet) away from others not in our immediate circle. Many businesses shut down temporarily. We’ve been asked to line up outside so that only a small number of people could be in a shop at once.

At first, wearing masks was not part of the health recommendations, but as we got a better handle on the virus and how it spreads, public health officials began to recommend wearing them in some situations, such as when we are indoors and cannot avoid being closer than two metres to others.

Somehow, this innocuous recommendation has become a polarizing war for some.

There have always been a small number of people who argue that the virus is not real and that the pandemic has been overblown. They take the success of our measures to curb the spread as proof that there was never anything to worry about. They are, of course, mistaken.

But even among those who otherwise are on board with public health advice, for some reason masks became controversial. In the U.S. it became a partisan political issue, and what happens to the south does tend to bleed across our borders.

Some argue that this is about our freedoms being curtailed.

Really? Why is wearing a mask for a few minutes seen as such an imposition? This is, at most, a small inconvenience, not something chipping away at your soul. Masks have somehow become the toilet paper of later-stage COVID precautions. A sense of proportion is needed, here.

We must not see it as a cure-all. It does not replace other public health measures, especially distancing and good hand hygiene, but in the interests of doing everything possible to allow us to keep things open, this is another tool in our COVID kit.

In conclusion, just wear a mask when you’re asked to if you’re inside with a bunch of people, or you can’t distance. What have you really got to lose?

Nothing.

What have you got to gain?

Possibly helping to prevent the spread of the virus.

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