House Call with Carol Hughes

Why I (happily) wear a mask

I’ll be the first to admit I don’t much like wearing a mask. They are uncomfortable and can be hot too, but the purpose they are meant to serve is compelling enough to make the exercise worthwhile. What is difficult to accept is the notion that people are so opposed to this that they are willing to argue at great lengths against the idea as an affront to their personal liberties or see the whole exercise as some form of a conspiracy. While there are valid medical reasons some individuals cannot wear a mask, being asked to wear one while occupying public indoor spaces enrages some people to the point that they become aggressive which is disrespectful and unacceptable.

Masks are not common in western society, but there are parts of the world where they were regularly employed well before the COVID-19 pandemic. In places like Japan, you often see people wearing one in public because they are trying to contain an illness, such as a cold, so that others don’t catch it. This is the same reason people are being asked to wear masks now. While this seems like a simple enough request from our health officials, the response from the public has been uneven.

I have received a great deal of correspondence about masks from those who believe the science behind the idea and those who question it. In some instances, the message is charged with strong sentiments from those concerned about others who aren’t complying with local regulations, or those who feel they shouldn’t be forced to comply. It is my belief that we should follow the advice of health officials and the science they rely on to arrive at their recommendations. Basing our decisions on non-medical opinion and outlier advice, such as that which is widely available on social media, is not advisable.

Advice aside, the strong emotions attached to the subject aren’t making things easier, especially for those who work in businesses and other public-facing spaces where people are being required to wear face coverings. Although it is someone’s right to refuse to wear a mask indoors in public spaces, it is also the right of business owners and staff at public venues to ask that person to leave the space. Keep in mind that entering a public space is a privilege, not a right.

While the issue is much more politically charged in the United States, some of that is present in Canada too. This seems to be especially noticeable when it comes to an individual arguing about their right to do what pleases them as opposed to what is being asked of them in support of those around them. It’s easy to be confused about the nature of our country with so much cultural influence arriving from our bigger neighbour to the south. Canada is based on the notion of peace, order and good government. Too many have been exposed to the American motto of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The difference is noticeable, especially in moments like these when we are being asked to comply with a public health measure intended to protect the most vulnerable to the pandemic, our medical system, and the professionals who provide that care.

The pandemic is testing many aspects of our society. We are adapting to changing conditions and have done a great job on many fronts. Masks are the latest measure we are being asked to employ and if enough of us do so we will reap the benefits. While you may not agree with the reason to do so, or the fact that some individuals cannot wear them for medical reasons, it is never the wrong time to be kind, patient and respectful.