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Unmasking the Opposition to Masks

by | Oct 13, 2020 | Blog Posts

If it’s not obvious by the title, I take issue with those opposed to wearing masks in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. The anti-maskers make four basic arguments that may sound reasonable at first but are entirely illogical and irrational, if not patently absurd. For the sake of brevity, I am not addressing the conspiratorial claims about hoaxes and such. There is only so much space.

Argument 1: Wearing a mask infringes on my fundamental rights and freedoms.

This fallacy is getting significant buy-in from what I dub “freedom fanatics.” They decry every new rule as an attack on their liberty. Yet, they still wear pants in public without complaining. Wearing pants shows respect to those around you and most likely protects you from embarrassment. 

Wearing a mask might be inconvenient at times but this simple act saves lives, just like obeying a stop sign. Stopping at an intersection can be a nuisance but it’s a necessary nuisance. The reason stop signs, pants, and masks are important is because we live in a society where rules are created to keep us all safe. So, put on a mask, put on your pants, and stop at the stop sign. It just makes sense.

Argument 2: Masks interfere with my breathing.

Some anti-maskers cite Facebook posts from a discredited conspiracy nut who claims oxygen can’t get through the mask while the wearer is breathing in and carbon dioxide can’t escape while breathing out. That fellow also claims viruses can pass easily through the mask, so the mask is of no use anyway. However, science shows us the virus particles are 1,000 times larger than oxygen or carbon dioxide molecules. So how can oxygen and carbon dioxide not pass through, but the virus can? This argument is both unscientific and illogical.

Looking at crackpot posts on Facebook and other social media platforms is not research. All sorts of health professionals, such as doctors and nurses, wear masks all day to protect patients and each other. They are able to breathe just fine. So, drop the Facebook façade, focus on science, and take a deep breath with your mask on because you can, and you should, for the sake of yourself and others.

Argument 3: God, not masks, will take care of me. 

I am not criticizing religious beliefs but I do find it ironic when people raise religious arguments against wearing a mask and then raise arguments in favour of owning a firearm for self-defence. Do they think God is choosy about protecting them? Do they think God will protect them against COVID-19 but not a home invasion?

I am reminded of the story about the man who died in a flood because he turned down three rescue attempts, each time declaring God would save him. As he stood before God at the gates of heaven, he asked God why He didn’t save him, God replied: “I sent two boats and a helicopter. What more did you want?” Perhaps God helps those who are willing to help themselves. If you believe in God you must also believe in your duty to your fellow man. Wear a mask when in public.

Argument 4: We need to get back to normal as quickly as possible for the sake of the economy.

This is not so much an argument as a contradiction. The same folks typically opposed to mask wearing are also the same ones that continue to say the economy needs to open up at all costs. I understand the importance of the economy but the best way to ensure a safe economic restart is to have everyone wear a mask in public places. In jurisdictions that have instituted mandatory masks in public spaces, infection rates have flatlined. In places where reopening has not included mask wearing, infection rates and deaths have increased. 

Listen to the science, pay attention to the experts, ignore the fallacies and false arguments. 

Opening our economies should come with strong incentives to wear masks if not an outright mandatory-mask requirement. Places where people refuse to wear masks are experiencing, or are going to experience, a massive resurgence of infections which will force the economy to close again. A second round of economic closures and government supports will be much more devastating than the first round. The simple solution to rebuilding the economy is to have people in public places mask up because masks help prevent the spread. If you want the economy to reopen you should support wearing a mask to ensure everyone gets back to work safely and the economy stays open.