Wearing a mask when sick prevents the spread of disease, should be normalized after COVID-19 pandemic

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Cady Armstrong

Ever since kindergarten, once a year I have caught either the flu or a bad virus from school or some other public place. However, this year I haven’t been sick once, due in large part to everyone wearing a mask in public consistently. With this in mind, even once the COVID-19 pandemic is in the past, it’s time to normalize wearing masks in order to prevent the spread of disease. 

I’m not the only one who escaped the flu this year. According to the CDC, in a typical year at the height of flu season between December and February, the flu brings an average of 45 million cases. During the 2019-20 flu season, the CDC estimated 38 million people were sick with the flu. However, this year there have only been 2,038 reported cases of the flu in the United States between Sept. 27, 2020 and April 24, 2021. Health officials attribute much of this dramatic decrease to constant sanitation and mask-wearing in public. Further, these measures have saved up to 61,000 lives, the average amount of deaths due to the flu. 

Wearing a mask is also not a completely new concept. First, at most doctors’ offices, they ask you to wear a mask if you have a cough or are sneezing a lot. Further, in many parts of Asia wearing a mask in public to prevent disease was common even before the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, making the transition in the United States to wearing masks in public while sick would not be that drastic. Also, with June right around the corner, it has been nearly 15 months since everyone started wearing masks, so it is something that people are accustomed to at this point. There are other benefits to wearing a mask too: they keep your face warm, keep bugs off you, and discourage public displays of affection in the hallway, in turn helping the mask-wearing individual avoid everyday inconveniences.
Before March of 2020, many students would attend school even if they had a virus, potentially exposing several others to harmful diseases. However, all of this could be avoided if potentially sick individuals were to wear masks. As a society over the last year, we’ve all learned how disease spreads and how masks can help to stop them. As a result, going in public when sick, with COVID-19 or any other virus, without a mask in 2021 means that you’re willingly spreading disease to the people around you. 

I am not saying that we should wear masks every day after the pandemic either. They’re bad for the environment and make my skin break out really bad. Rather, I simply encourage you to wear a mask in public when you’re sick to help prevent the spread of disease. If we were to wear masks before the COVID-19 pandemic, who knows how many lives could have been saved? Though there’s nothing we can do about that now, we can help save others from getting sick by normalizing wearing a mask in public when ill.

To see more of Cady’s work, click here.

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