The mask mandate is over in the United States, with the federal government and all U.S. airlines making clear that masks are no longer compulsory onboard domestic flights. Even though I detest masks and the fear they have become symbolic of, there is still at least one instance in which I will continue to wear them on planes, trains, busses, or in other public settings.
I Will Still Wear A Mask When Asked By An Individual In Need
The question, for me, has never been whether masks are effective, but whether the marginal additional protection they provide justifies wearing one. Study after study has shown that masks do help–I’ve yet to see a definitive study suggest that masks are somehow useless. KN95/N95 are the most uncomfortable masks, but also the most effective, helping those who wear them regularly to greatly reduce their risk of contacting COVID-19 and a number of other sicknesses.
But masks are uncomfortable. They keep us from reading facial expressions and therefore from fulling interacting with one another. They also make it hard to breathe – I’ll never forget waking up so sick once on a redeye United flight and struggling for breath. Removing the mask quickly stabilized me. Many of us wear the same mask for days (or even weeks) at a time, further reducing its effectiveness.
And now, with very limited exception, masks will be optional. I do celebrate that move, especially as vaccinations as well as medicine to treat COVID-19 are widely available.
At the same time, there will be one instance in which I will continue to wear masks: if an immunocompromised person is nearby and asks me to. Whether that is on an airplane, in a restaurant, or even sitting outside, my duty to be a good neighbor does not end with the pandemic.
Many of our immunocompromised neighbors cannot receive the vaccine or have weaker immune system such that they are prone to a number of illnesses. Some cannot keep on masks themselves, like children or senior citizens. This is not a byproduct of the pandemic, but the pandemic made more of us realize the difficulty of what many have gone through their entire lives.
Some perfectly healthy individuals will continue to wear a triple mask while driving or running in the park out of fear. That’s not who I am concerned about. But just like I would happily give up my warmed mixed nuts on a plane if I knew there was someone with a nut allergy nearby, so too would I put on a mask if I am asked. We should all do likewise.
The mask mandate is over and I look forward to traveling without a mask. Even so, I understand that some now face increased risk and I am not indifferent to their struggle. Those who are at high risk should carefully evaluate whether travel is wise at all, but in those narrow circumstances, I am still willing to wear a mask.