Ever since the coronavirus pandemic began our main goal has been to stop the spread. This is a feat that can only be done if everyone follows necessary precautions such as staying 6ft apart, washing your hands, and more importantly wearing a mask. That final task is one that has provoked the ire of numerous Americans. Additionally, this government mandate has also started up a conversation about the infringement of rights.
In the First Amendment, it says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” Americans have been referencing their first amendment rights since it became mandatory in most states for masks to be worn. While some may truly believe they’re debating about freedom of speech or expression, not wearing a mask in the midst of a public health crisis shines a light on exactly how self-centered people can be.
Videos of men and women going to public places such as grocery stores or shopping malls and refusing to wear a mask have since taken over the internet. These videos show the very paradox of this first amendment argument. If wearing a mask is an infringement on someone’s rights then there are numerous other acts we as humans do on a daily basis that “infringe” on our rights as well. Yet, few people are getting quite as worked up about those.
That same man or woman who spent their time yelling at a grocery store worker eventually gets back into their car and puts on their seatbelt. They stop at a red light and put their blinker on to signal which way they’ll turn. This person has no issue with having to put on their seatbelt because it is against the law not to wear one and they decide not to run a red light because they’re aware doing so could lead to an accident or ticket. Is forcing everyone to wear a seatbelt or to use their turn signal not an infringement on their rights? Or does protecting their own life make it not worth building an argument for?
We’re now in August and with coronavirus cases rising in some states and falling in others, the mask debate has been incessant. President Trump, who originally had not been wearing a mask to press briefings or in public, changed his tune around mid-June. He went as far as calling wearing a mask patriotic. This is a complete shift from his prior behavior in which he mocked a reporter who wouldn’t take their mask off during a press conference saying, “Ok, you want to be politically correct. Go ahead.” So, it is obvious that Trump saying mask-wearing is patriotic only happened as the number of cases rose in Washington, DC. He could have also decided to speak out on the subject due to the severe scrutiny America’s leadership has been under since the country became a COVID-19 hot spot.
Although urging Americans to wear a mask was a push in the right direction, taking this stand four months into the pandemic was a bit too little too late. Governors in states such as Alaska and Colorado have also adopted an approval for mask-wearing extremely late in the game. Meanwhile, Governor Kevin Stitt of Oklahoma supports the ideology that you can’t mandate masks but revealed that he tested positive for the virus on July 15th. If those in positions of power are just now coming around to the fact that masks serve as protection against the virus then it is no surprise that the American people aren’t wearing them willingly either.
Now that colleges, high schools, and elementary schools are beginning to open the great mask debate has caught flame. Most of the safety precautions that schools have taken are not streamlined. In New Jersey students going back to school are required to wear masks, but in Georgia, a viral photo showed students close together in the school hallways, not a mask in sight.
At the same time in one Mississippi school district, students have already been asked to quarantine after seven confirmed cases. The district was one of the first to reopen in the state, and over 100 students have been in close contact with six students and a staff member who tested positive for the virus. The students now have to quarantine for 14 days and attend classes remotely.
There has been substantial backlash against schools who claim that wearing a mask is a personal choice, too. Especially given many schools’ history of mandating strict dress codes among other rules. A girl is not allowed to wear spaghetti straps for fear of “distracting” classmates and will be reprimanded to varying extents if found wearing such attire, but a student can decide to not wear a mask and potentially spread a deadly virus. Something just isn’t adding up here. What are their priorities?
You may be asking yourself, with all of this information why are people still against wearing the mask? Well, part of this could be due to the massive amount of misinformation that has been spread about coronavirus since March. According to Mayo Clinic, the top myths are that people who aren’t sick don’t need to wear a mask, that wearing a mask means you don’t need to practice social distancing, and that wearing a mask will increase the amount of carbon dioxide you breathe.
It has been proven through extensive research that a number of people who have coronavirus are asymptomatic – even if you don’t think you have the virus you cannot be 100% sure. Not to mention that while wearing a mask social distancing rules definitely still apply: a mask certainly doesn’t erase the virus from existence. So, for all of those who are nervous about having to constantly be wearing a mask, sometimes even claiming respiratory issues as their main defence, you should know that health care providers wear masks for extended periods of time at their frontline jobs without any evidence of negative health effects. Plus, if you do have a pre-existing breathing complication apparently restricting you from wearing a mask, that is all the more reason why you should be wearing a mask to protect against a virus that attacks your lungs.
The Declaration of Independence states: All men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. As Americans, we should be diligently focused on wearing our masks, proudly and patriotically, to show that we believe that every person has the right to live. To show that we are a country which values community, decency, and respect.
Perhaps we have a long way to go.