A Mask Mandate should be Prioritized

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Amanda Chang, Staff Writer

Right now, many, many, people are incredibly focused on rolling out vaccinations to healthcare providers, essential workers, the elderly, and others, and they should be. Getting people vaccinated is very important in slowing, and eventually stopping, the pandemic. Plus, right now, the distribution and administration of the vaccines are still quite messy, which is why there is a great focus on them by President Biden and other officials. 

However, those who receive the vaccine do not receive full protection until after several weeks and may still possibly transmit the virus, if contracted, to others. Even if every single healthcare provider gets fully vaccinated, it might not necessarily protect the public as much as one could hope. Just because individuals are protected does not mean that many common citizens can fully receive it. So, although those vaccinated would be protected from others, hospitals could still be overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients. Additionally, there have been quite a few reports of new strains of COVID-19. A mask mandate would not only curb the spread of COVID-19 while the vaccines are being distributed, but will help to bring the number of cases and deaths down as well.

Masks have been proven to be effective against transmitting illnesses and germs, hence why professionals like healthcare and essential workers wore them every day before the pandemic and why many people, especially in Asian countries, wear masks, even in non-pandemic times to protect others when they are sick. Plus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends wearing a mask for people two years and older. 

“A range of new research on face coverings shows that the risk of infection to the wearer is decreased by 65 percent, said Dean Blumberg, chief of pediatric infectious diseases at UC Davis Children’s Hospital,” said Rick Kushman in an article from the University of California, Davis (UC Davis).

Masks are so effective because COVID-19 is spread through water droplets in the air that are caused by talking, coughing, sneezing, or other activities that cause a person to open their mouth. According to UC Davis, some of the droplets are visible and are one-third of the size of a strand of hair. Others are much smaller and are only about one-hundredth. The smaller droplets can carry through the air on air currents, which is why it is safer to see people from outside of one’s household outdoors, though masks and social distancing are still greatly encouraged. 

“The plexiglass shields in stores and restaurants only help somewhat. The same is true for office cubicles. But after a lengthy time, transmission is possible from aerosols if the air flow is not good,” said Kushman.

Kushman also said that the water droplets from a person are like perfume; eventually, one can smell the perfume even though the plexiglass is there, so eventually, the droplets can reach other people despite the shield. This is one of the reasons why masks should still be worn, even when one has the added protection of another barrier. 

If everyone in the world wore a mask instead of relying on vaccines, barriers, and social distancing alone, so many more people would be protected. This would result in fewer cases, fewer deaths, and relief to both healthcare providers and the public alike.

 

Graphic courtesy of BART.GOV