To Mask, or Not to Mask…

June 15, 2020

The world we now find ourselves in is obviously very different from that of just a few months ago. Conflicting information and opinions have made navigating through this seemingly ever-changing environment even more difficult.

The most glaring issue upon which no one seems to definitively agree is whether to mask, or not to mask. As the COVID-19 crisis gripped people across the globe, the World Health Organization (WHO) was explicitly recommending that people do not wear masks unless they are sick. By early June that stance had begun to change with the WHO website now stating that while it “does not recommend their widespread use among the public for control of COVID-19,” masks are encouraged in settings where social distancing is not possible. Meanwhile our own CDC had changed its view to advising use of face masks back in March.

Whatever the WHO and CDC say, mask wearing has increased since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak and is a key part of the efforts made by service businesses and retailers to protect and reassure their customers.  The move has not been universally popular. Some retailers, such as Costco, saw a backlash from customers who felt this was overreach. That backlash seems to generally have died down as people have become more used to mask wearing. The pattern of mask wearing is still very variable, however, and it is not just those least at risk who are abstaining from face coverings.

Another tricky decision many people are facing, especially as the weather heats up, is whether to go swimming in public pools or not. Many pools in apartment complexes, subdivisions and sports complexes are starting to reopen, albeit with increased safety measures including limited capacity and social distancing enforcement. CDC guidelines for pools follow their now familiar guidelines of good hand hygiene, the use of cloth face coverings (but not while in the water!), and posting signs reminding everyone of proper etiquette. They also have a long list of other recommendations including: cleaning and disinfection; ventilation; water systems; modified layouts; and physical barriers and guides.

Another important element of this changing world sees the intersection of the global pandemic with the spotlight that has been put upon racial inequality and injustice. The question of whether or not to join in with peaceful protests is another on which there are conflicting emotions. Many have participated in protests even with the possibility of contracting COVID-19.

Whatever your stance on the confusing issues we currently face, the crucial commonality that underscores all these decisions is the necessity of educating ourselves, consulting a variety of different sources, and making informed decisions. During these unprecedented times, as we reevaluate what is important to us and how to move forward, taking some time to read or listen to varied experiences has never been more important.

Shelley Castaldi