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To Mask or not to Mask: That is not the question

Let’s face it, masks R us, for now and the foreseeable future.

Published: 20th September 2020 05:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 19th September 2020 03:42 PM   |  A+A-

A policeman donning face mask with message ‘Protect Everyone’ to spread Covid-19 awareness, near Ice House in Chennai

A policeman donning face mask with message ‘Protect Everyone’ to spread Covid-19 awareness, near Ice House in Chennai | R Satish Babu

Let’s face it, masks R us, for now and the foreseeable future. A fresh slew of reports have come to the consensus that masks do a first-rate job of protecting us, as well as curbing the spread of Covid. This does not, of course, mean we can jettison the other safeguards like hand hygiene, physical distancing and avoiding crowded places. As long as the vaccine is nowhere in sight—and don’t let’s hurry the process please, because that works to our detriment—we need masks to stay safe and well.

Recent studies have revealed that masks do a good job of variolation, which basically means exposing us to the virus but in mild doses, so as to slow the spread of infection. This theory takes into account viral pathogenesis, which calculates the severity of the disease in proportion to the infecting amount of the virus received. Given that masks filter out some of the droplets in the air, we may be inhaling less of it and therefore, less likely to become infected. 

Then, the jury is still out on the antibodies in a recovered Covid patient. In fact, the jury is still out on a lot of things concerning the pandemic, like resurgence, reinfection, relapse. What has come to light is that traces of the virus remains in a recovered patient for as long as six weeks in some cases. Even as scientists (lab warriors?) and medicos are constantly working at deconstructing the nature and character of the disease, we need to do our part.

It is nobody’s case that wearing masks is a comfortable or convenient thing. Just about all of us have experienced shortness of breath after wearing a mask for an extended period of time. There is the pain felt in the upper lobe behind the ear. There is the matter of glasses fogging up. There is the fact that it is positively dangerous to jog or indulge in any high-intensity workout wearing a mask. 

Now, we are having to read people from the crinkle of their eyes and non-facial body language, as well as tone and cadence of speech. A smile is a cultural rite, a way of putting people at ease. Today, it’s all about smizing, a term fortuitously coined by model Tyra Banks well before the advent of the coronavirus, smiling with the eyes, and let’s face it, not everyone can do that well. If you wear glasses, smizing is that much harder to ascertain. Which puts its own pressure on people-to-people interaction. 

With all it’s got going against it (and I’m not even touching on the fake victimhood banner being hoisted by the anti-maskers), masks are a proven public health tool but one which  takes some getting used to. On the flip side, it is a way to show that you are conscientious and conscious about the pandemic and doing your best to break its flow.  

As I write this, Google’s doodle for the day is one that urges us to wear a mask and save lives.  
So, don’t dump that mask for now. We really do need it. For a long while yet. What you can do is get yourself a smart set of masks, to wear in style. And inherent thrift aside, remember to throw out the disposable masks, and wash and wear the repeat-use ones. Since masks are going to be part of our lives for the long nonce, we might as well do a good job of masking. 
kumar.sheila@gmail.com.



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