Will face masks become a regular feature of U.S. society after the pandemic?

  • Experts are urging citizens to continue wearing face masks
  • Some Americans are avoiding masks out of protest or lack of concern
  • Face masks could become the new norm worldwide

The CDC currently recommends that all Americans wear a face covering in “public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.” Any American out in public—at the grocery store, pharmacist, or doctor’s office—should have their mouth and nose covered. Many Americans accept this as a fact of life during COVID-19 but are beginning to wonder when they can venture outdoors sans mask. Are masks set to become a mainstay in American society, or will we return to normal once the danger of COVID-19 passes?

Face masks are still broadly stigmatized in the U.S., where they remain a relatively rare sight even in the midst of a global health pandemic. Mask wearing has long been uncommon here, unlike many Asian countries, where mask-wearing has been a norm for years. In those countries, including China, not wearing a mask during an outbreak of this sort would instead be stigmatized. While in the U.S. a room full of masked people might spark alarm, it is a sign of community solidarity in many other areas of the world. 

This has led to speculation that a shift is nigh in America. The likelihood that we will see more highly-contagious viruses like COVID-19 in the coming years is certainly possible. With that in mind, it seems our days of stigmatizing mask-wearers may be nearing an end. Immunologist and Yale lecturer Shan Soe-Lin told AccuWeather that “masks are one of the most equitable interventions we have. We know not everyone can socially distance, but everyone can cover their face.”

Until a vaccine is developed, some experts believe mask-wearing might—and should—become the norm. That could mean more than a year of consistent mask-wearing, whenever we venture into public. By the time that year has passed, many of the negative connotations regarding masks will likely have disappeared. There is also a racial element to many mask-wearing concerns, as Americans of color often face far harsher castigation due to face masks than their white fellows.

Mask-wearing, overall, is not considered very good protection against catching COVID-19. It is, however, an excellent protection against further spread. Since many COVID-19 carriers are either asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic, many of the people spreading germs are doing so without knowing it. Wearing a mask in public places would help to lessen the amount of contagion floating in the air and on common surfaces. 

As some areas in America enforce mask-wearing, the topic has become political. According to the Washington Post, many Democrats have taken precautions to heart, while many Republicans feel it is an infringement on their rights to require face masks in public. 

Sources: CDC, The Atlantic, Washington Post, Today, Yahoo News, CNN 

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