Hi-Ho Silver! Away! Or was it Hi-Yo? I just learned there is disagreement about which it was. Regardless, cue the William Tell Overture theme song. The Lone Ranger chased bad guys and always won. He wore a mask to conceal his identity and worked together with his trusty companion Tonto to fight for justice. He used silver bullets to remind himself of how precious life is and to only use them as a last resort. He didn’t smoke, drink, or curse.
After he saved the day and rode away, someone would ask, “Who was that masked man?” I’ve been asking a similar question about the increasing number of people I am seeing wearing masks to combat the virus. Some make sense, like older people, or those with obvious health conditions. Others I find curious, like people who are outside, all by themselves, far away from others while walking, running, biking, or driving around in their cars. I don’t get it, why the mask?
I was curious and decided to do some in-depth research to determine what the proper course of action regarding mask usage should be. I didn’t realize I was walking into a firestorm. A quick review of Facebook comments nearly scared me away. Apparently you are labeled a “covidiot” whether you choose to wear a mask or not. The sides have been drawn and the insults are flying.
I initially thought this was going to be a fairly simple task. I’ll just use my dig-deep research method which has served me well for decades in order to get to the definitive truth. There has to be truth out there somewhere, right? Wrong! After reading everything I could find, from every possible angle I could imagine for an entire day, I found no clear and compelling answer.
I did find strong opinions stated as the definitive truths. They all relied on cherry-picked facts and contained statements like, the fact of the matter is, there can be no disputing the fact, the truth is, or my new favorite, the science says, followed by a half truth, or worse, and outright lie. I’m sorry, but you can’t say, the science says, and then provide a conclusion that is easily disproven by … science.
Unfortunately all the opinions sound very convincing, especially if they align with your preconceived notions of what the truth is. And who has the time and energy to dig into the details, look at all the angles, and come up with their own opinion? It’s so much easier to trust the “experts.”
After getting deep into this topic I wished I hadn’t. It became clear that this is yet another topic with strong ideological divisions. In general, liberals like masks and conservatives don’t. Whichever side you are on there are plenty of facts to back you up. In fact, give me your conclusion and I can get you there with all the relevant statistics … we’ll call it science.
But since I did wade into the deep waters of this controversy I might as well come to my own opinion and share it for your consideration. Below is my attempt to be completely unbiased. It shouldn’t be too hard because I actually have not yet formed a solid stance.
Here is the main question I am trying to answer; What would a striving saint do? In other words, what is the best approach to take regarding masks for a person who is striving to be their best and to share their best for the benefit of others.
Let’s start with understanding the odds of getting the virus. Sadly there is no good data on this, we’ll have to make do with what we have. The math on the current numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) tells us that there is a 0.4 percent chance you will get the virus, and a 6 percent chance you will die if you do get it. But not to worry, overall there is only a .02 percent chance you will die from this virus, and much lower than that if you are young and healthy.
Here are some other interesting notes from the CDC. They state that “a significant portion of those with coronavirus are asymptomatic” (i.e. experience no symptoms). Further, for those who do have symptoms, “most people have mild illness and are able to recover at home.” And those we really need to worry about are “older adults and people with severe underlying health conditions.”
How about an example to quantify the risks? Let’s inflate the chance of getting the virus from 0.4 percent way up to … well how about 100 percent, everyone gets it. To make it personal, think of 100 people you know. They all now have the virus. But a significant portion, say 70 percent, will experience no symptoms. Of the 30 left, most will have mild symptoms, let’s say that leaves 10 to worry about. What will happen to them?
One consistent statement in everything I have read about those who are dying is that they are “nearly all” older adults and those who had serious underlying health conditions. If you have some of those friends, sadly you may lose a few, but statistically less than 1 of the 10.
From this I am drawing one conclusion so far. I will wear a mask when around older adults and people with serious underlying medical conditions. The good news is that should rarely be necessary since those folks shouldn’t be out and about anyway. They should remain in self-isolation and get the help they need from their younger and healthier family, friends, and neighbors. We are happy to help.
I see the CDC’s latest guidance on masks is to wear one “in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.”
Okay, got it, but I’m still wondering why. If those with issues are staying home, how big is the risk we will be spreading the disease? Yes I realize there is some chance we may have it without knowing it, but even if we spread it to other non-high risk individuals there is very little risk of that leading to serious illness or death.
And what about this herd immunity thing? Building resistance to the virus through exposure. There is concern that there will be a second wave of illness once we break isolation from a lack of this exposure and resistance building. Maybe we should start that sooner rather than later?
At this point the only reason I would wear a mask in public is to avoid the nasty looks and comments I will no doubt get from some. I’m concerned we are about to get into a Dr. Seuss Sneetches scenario where the masked and unmasked are arguing about who are the best Sneetches on the beaches. If you don’t recall that story, do yourself a favor and go read it for a mental health break. Let me know who you think Sylvester McMonkey McBean is in this scenario.
Speaking of mental health, what is the impact of wearing masks in that regard? I’m sure there are some positives but I see only fear. We don’t need more fear, we need hope. The proliferation of the use of masks is not hope inspiring. They are instead a constant reminder of fear.
The thing about fear is that it produces anxiety, which causes stress, which leads to panic, irrational decision making, and interestingly, a weakened immune system. Why do we want to spread more fear? I think the spread of fear is actually worse than the spread to the virus itself. It is paralyzing. It must stop! The numbers certainly don’t justify it.
Now many argue that wearing a mask is a minor inconvenience, that there is no harm in wearing one, so why wouldn’t you? You care about other people, right? Right, that’s why I will not be wearing one. I’ve come to the conclusion that they actually do more psychological harm than physical good.
So based on the numbers and trusting that people are doing what is in their best interests based on their risk factors, here is what I will do.
Obviously what you do is your choice, and I respect whatever that is. You must be comfortable with your decisions and able to defend them to others when challenged. I hope the above has helped you in some way.
Anyway, this is what I think a striving saint should do. I believe that saints take calculated risks in the overall best interests of all people. They are courageous and fearless in their attempts show their love for God and neighbors. That is not always simple and the choices are not always easy, but they do the best they can given the facts and circumstances.
If you are with me, get out there and show the world your smiling face and your joy for the opportunity of a new beginning. Share your faith, hope, and love for your fellow citizens. Display your courage and confidence that better days are close at hand. And leave them wondering, “Who was that unmasked man?”
Finally, for our health care worker friends, Thank You for fighting the good fight. We hear you are getting bruised faces from the constant pressure of wearing your masks. We are so sorry to hear that on top of the constant stress of doing your job. You are all saints!
Keep the Faith my Saint Striving Friends, Scott