Opinion | Masks may be optional individually, but they’re mandatory for public safety

With COVID-19 cases hitting record highs in the past week, there is no time like the present to start wearing a mask in public


Katie Goodale

A mask sits on the Irving B. Weber statue in front of Van Allen on Thursday, March 12, 2020. The US has seen a shortage of N95 surgical masks in the recent weeks due to coronavirus. The CDC currently recommends the use of facemarks be reserved for those who are sick or for those who are caring for the sick. (Katie Goodale/ The Daily Iowan)

Chloe Peterson, Opinions Columnist

Wear a mask in public.

In case you’ve forgotten, we’re still in the middle of a pandemic.

It may not feel like it, with states reopening and sports coming back, but the United States recorded its highest ever number of new cases in one day for the fifth-straight day on Saturday, with 44,782 cases.

We’re in a second wave before the first one even ended.

An easy way to mitigate the spike in cases is to simply wear a face mask. Recent research has shown that if 95 percent of Americans wear a face mask in public, it could prevent up to 33,000 deaths. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that all Americans start wearing face masks in public on April 3, and since then many governors have made it a requirement in their state.

Face masks aren’t just there to protect against sneezes and coughs. Respiratory droplets from talking can linger in the air and on surfaces for up to 14 minutes.

Too many people are ignoring CDC recommendations. A study of Wisconsin grocery shoppers found that less than half of people are wearing face masks in public. According to the study, only 41 percent of 3,271 observed grocery shoppers were wearing masks. The study also found that women were more likely than men to wear a mask, as well as older people were more likely than younger to wear them.

I am working in a grocery store this summer, so that study hits close to home. Whenever I need to talk to someone not wearing a face mask or even just wearing one incorrectly, I have a solid fear that they will get me sick. But the general public, as a whole, doesn’t seem to care.

Some people think that wearing a mask is ‘infringing on their constitutional rights.’

That is not true, on both public and private property. According to Poynter.org, governments are able to require masks in public spaces in the same way that they are able to ban smoking in public places, because those things can affect the health of the community.

Businesses and companies on private property have free reign to decide if they want to require customers to wear masks. According to constitutional lawyer Dan Barr, businesses are not infringing on the individual’s constitutional rights by requiring a mask, but the other way around. When they violate the policy of a business on private property, they are violating the business’s constitutional rights.

Businesses and governments alike have the power of the law on their side.

Finally, there are the people who just don’t care. They don’t have any medical issues or any strong opinion about wearing a mask, they just view it as an inconvenience to their daily lives.

Dr. Christopher Murray, the director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, stated that “people need to know that wearing masks can reduce transmission of the virus by up to 50 percent, and those who refuse are putting their lives, their families, their friends, and their communities at risk.”

I don’t know how to tell you that you should care about other people. It doesn’t matter if you think that wearing a mask is ‘uncomfortable’ or ‘annoying.’ If I and all of my coworkers can wear masks for up to eight hours a day to protect you, you can bear it for the 20 minutes that you’re walking through the store to protect us and everyone else you know.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.


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