Mask Jib Jab: Is the Divide in Mask Wear Political or Locational

As the pandemic advances across the U.S., the mask wars are heating up. Everybody has an opinion about whether virus-proofing masks are needed in public—and the other guy is always wrong. No matter how fast the nation opens back up for business, there’s going to be a fight.

It’s easy to believe that the divide is merely political. Surveys suggest that most Americans of either political party support covering the face to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus. But while conservative-led states have been eager to open the economy, liberal states have pushed for longer lockdowns and more safety precautions.

It’s unclear what we should be doing about masks for the mass outdoor demonstrations (and sometimes riots) going on recently. People who say “No, no, no!” to others meeting in a church or concert hall are often willing to say “Go, go, go!” to those standing up peacefully for their civil liberties in a crowd or even those commandeering whole areas (admittedly outdoors) to do, well, we’re not sure what, exactly. No one seems to be saying much to the rioters or CHAZ folks either way.

However, there may be other reasons for the divide, like worries about getting sick at work.

Said Kroger employee and Michigan resident Kristine Holtham, retail workers:

“…[A]re downright afraid to ask people to put on masks. Believe me, if you ask someone to put on a mask, it’s like asking them to throw their gun away.”

Retail employees are rightly worried that they may be exposed to the virus by customers. And it’s no doubt alarming to go into that “clean” grocery store with the plastic shields and hygiene nanny signs everywhere to see store employees wearing their masks below their noses.

Those who work in food packing plants or warehouses have it worse: even with mask use, many of them are becoming ill because of close working conditions.

Another reason for the divide may be locational: urban vs. rural or even hot state vs. cold state. For obvious reasons, people in crowded cities might prefer that everyone continue wearing a mask. For people in rural or even suburban settings, this might seem like wretched overkill. (For people with little children, it might seem impossible.)

However, that supposition may not be correct. Shannon Monnat of Syracuse University notes that rural areas have more old people, higher rates of chronic health conditions, and fewer healthcare opportunities. Those groups really need protection from coronavirus infection, but does that mean they need to wear the masks, or should everyone else instead? They’d be safer staying home.

Your opinion on whether all people, including rural ones, need masks might circle back again to political affiliation. Do people in academia or who watch mainstream news advocate mask wear more than those who listen to talk radio or get their news from conservative news sites? It seems probable.

Some people also believe that the virus won’t live as well in the summer heat, which could make those in the warmer southern states less worried that they will catch the virus. Studies in COVID-19 have been divided. Some other viruses dissipate once the weather warms up during summer (think seasonal flu), but hot areas like the Middle East and Australia have had plenty of COVID-19 cases.

Masks can be hot and uncomfortable, and if you have sensitive skin or don’t like for things to touch you, they can be unbearable. “Maskne” (acne caused by friction from wearing a mask) is a thing now. For that matter, judgmental “mask Karens” wagging their fingers in public at non-mask wearers also can be unbearable—and they can be anybody, not just middle-aged white women like traditional Karens, either. Either way, be judicious, people: in some situations, despite where you live or what you believe, you may need to wear that mask to protect others and yourself.

Disclaimer: This article does not provide medical advice. Do not take action based solely on this article and always consult with an appropriate healthcare professional. This article is purely for informational purposes.

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  1. scott jahnke

    The CDC is not to be trusted. Look at the number of unexplained flip-flops it has performed on multiple aspects of this….including HCQ. The study they promoted as proof that it did not work was falsified by its author. Fauci, as a physician-scientist certainly should know how to critically read scientific articles and the validity of the design and data of the study.

    Look at this review by Ph.D. filtration and infectious disease experts on how effective mask-wearing is …really. One might ask how a society of people who have worn masks since the Olympics in China and now since COVID had the disease spread outside of its borders if mask-wearing really did anything to control the threat.