*Or your girlfriend, your mom, or the maskless lady who you see every morning in the elevator. Or anyone else in your life who is pushing back against the government's latest health and safety recommendations.
We’re calling out the dudes here because of new research that shows that some men are reluctant to follow this particular health measure, which is — as of this week — an official recommendation. On May 20, the country’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said that Canadians should wear non-medical face masks in places where maintaining physical distancing might be difficult. Per Tam, this “added layer of protection” makes good sense as we attempt to reopen the country and prevent the second wave of the novel coronavirus. But apparently not everyone is convinced. So, here are some of the most FGEs (that’s frequently given excuses) for mask non-compliance and some suggestions for effective rebuttals.
I don’t need to wear a face mask — I’m not sick
You don’t know that. One of the key reasons that COVID-19 has proved such a destructive enemy is because a significant percentage of transmission happens when people are asymptomatic. According to the latest reports from the Centers for Disease Control in the U.S., more than a third of people with the virus never show symptoms. Which makes the whole “I’m sick/I’m not sick” conversation kind of moot. There are some exceptions to the current mask guidelines (including children under two, people who have trouble breathing, anyone who, for any reason, might have trouble removing a mask on their own, for example), but, for the most part, every person who has not been in bubble wrap for two weeks needs to conduct themselves as if they have the virus, and if that’s the case then — I think you see where I’m going here — just put a mask on already!
Face masks are for wimps
It sounds ridiculous, but this line of thinking is all too real. A study about face masks out of the UK showed that men are more likely to see wearing a mask as “shameful, not cool, a sign of weakness and a stigma.” (I wonder who they could be getting that impression from.) Thankfully, here in Canada, our male leaders on both sides of the political spectrum are modelling a different type of strength. The kind that says, I am more concerned about protecting my fellow Canadians than conforming to a form of masculinity that should have died out with the sabre tooth tiger. So, why are some men reluctant? We can point to evolution, and gender norms and the whole conversation around male fragility, but that’s not going to get the loops around anyone’s ears any faster.
So maybe just remember who the bad guy is here (ie, the virus). Try substituting “I’m not a wimp” with “I give a shit.” You know who else gives a shit? Batman, Ironman, Black Panther. Those guys are undeniable badasses, and you don’t see them complaining about putting on a mask. (Note that it’s not just men who see forgoing a mask as a form of “standing up to the virus." Guess what? The virus doesn’t care. The virus wants you to stand up to it — preferably as close as possible, wearing zero protective garments.)
What about my civil liberties?
What about my civil liberties? This idea of refusing to wear a mask as some kind of patriotic demonstration is both misguided and incredibly dangerous (leading to beyond-tragic consequences in the States). No one is arguing that the right to protest and disagree with the government is fundamental in our country. But in this case, your actions impact the health and safety of your entire community and this is especially true of mask-wearing since wearing a mask is about protecting other people. It is also, to quote Dan Levy, “the simplest, easiest thing you can do” to help others. And who wants to argue with the guy from Schitt's Creek?
The government keeps flip-flopping
It’s absolutely true that the position of the government and various public health departments has changed over the course of COVID-19 — from “not beneficial” to maybe a good idea to this week’s recommendation. The evolving nature of best practices has absolutely made decisions around mask-wearing confusing, but the term flip-flop isn’t really fair either. Unless you’d say that society flip-flopped on whether the earth was flat, whether smoking is bad for you, whether The Bachelor is a good way to find everlasting love. In the simplest terms possible, when we do more research we learn more facts. Back in March, the thinking was that only people with symptoms needed to wear masks because only people with symptoms could be spreaders. Now we know different, so — duh! — we do different. (Unless you are talking about The Bachelor, in which case, we know better, but will keep making the same ridiculous series into eternity).
Recommended doesn't mean mandatory
Come on now. Everyone knows “recommended” is free-society speak for do this unless you have a damn good reason not to. Also note that there are many locations and situations where mask wearing is mandatory — during air travel and at a growing number of grocery stores, for example. A lot of stores (Hudson’s Bay, for example) are requiring their employees to wear masks and Starbucks is “respectfully requesting” that you mask up before collecting your Frappuccino.
If I’m practising physical distancing, I don’t need a face mask
Current mask recommendations are for “times when maintaining physical distancing isn’t possible,” so yes, if you are going for a stroll through an abandoned forest then feel free to leave your mask at home. (Preferably in the laundry — don’t forget these babies require regular cleaning).
But not all outings go as planned. Maybe you set out for a solo stroll and remember you need (more!) flour for tonight’s baking session. Maybe the sun comes out and suddenly the park is crawling with people. Or maybe the person coming the other way on the sidewalk is one of those COVIDIOTS who just isn’t going to move out of the way. Point is, life is unpredictable, never more so than now. If it helps, imagine you’re a nerd in an '80s movie. Tonight’s the big party and while your chances of scoring are slim to none, you’re still going to bring protection, right?
Running and wearing a mask is too uncomfortable. I can’t breathe!
A lot of people seem to have taken up running during isolation — whether you’re new to the sport or a long-term long-distance type, you probably think that panting while masking is a particularly uncomfortable experience. Fair enough. Toronto’s chief public health officer Eileen de Villa says that it’s okay to run without a mask on, but suggests keeping one on your person for the reasons stated above.
I can’t find a mask anywhere
Early on in the COVID-19 crisis, masks were hard to come by. But that is no longer the case for non-medical grade face coverings (ie, not the N95 kind worn by medical professionals), which are available to suit any and all tastes and budgets: Minimalist, high-fashion, local fashion, eco-friendly, kid-friendly. Go online and you may find that someone in your neighbourhood Facebook group is making masks for a good cause, or you can even attempt to DIY. Just make sure that whatever you are using meets the requirements set out by the Public Health Agency of Canada.
But that guy isn’t wearing one
Along with constant stress and longings for long nights in crowded dive bars, the inclination to play COVID cop is something a lot of us have been experiencing in this new reality: You see someone breaking the rules and you feel an overwhelming need to call them out (or call a snitch line). But before you go addressing the maskless stranger on the subway “don’t assume that someone who isn’t wearing a mask or is wearing something different doesn’t have an actual reason for it,” Dr. Tam said recently.
This may include people with different types of cognitive, intellectual disabilities, people who are hearing-impaired, people with asthma or allergies, or autism. Is it okay to ask a stranger to put on a mask? That depends. If it’s someone you encounter on the elevator every morning, a polite inquiry is probably okay. Just emphasize your concern and leave the high horse at home. As for the stranger on the sidewalk, it’s probably best to just dramatically turn your face and keep on walking. He may not change his mind, but he’ll get the message.
COVID-19 has been declared a global pandemic. Go to the Public Health Agency of Canada website for the latest information on symptoms, prevention, and other resources.