By Darren Lum
When it comes to mask wearing, I may continue to do it, particularly for indoor settings with lots of people around me. It’s not to make a political statement nor is it to make others feel guilty. And, yes, I’ve been vaccinated – boosted in fact. I don’t feel anxious about contracting COVID-19. It’s for loved ones and for the most vulnerable.
Contrary to what some may say or do when they see me, I know I’m helping to protect my 86-year-old father, who has been challenged with a respiratory issue, which dates back years before the pandemic. Why would I put him at even more risk? I also do it for my mother, who is in a long-term care facility and doesn’t understand why she has to wear a mask. I also do it for anyone who is immunocompromised. Have I slipped up here and there with my protocols? Sure, I have. I make mistakes.
I acknowledge masks are only part of a measure to reduce the transmission of COVID-19, so there is still an element of transmission risk. However, with mask mandates for most settings in Ontario ending on March 21, which includes many public buildings in Municipality of Highlands East and in the Municipality of Dysart et al (except for the Dymo bus), the debate among people in the Highlands has been about whether to voluntarily wear a mask or not. There is uncertainty because of a concern with how others may perceive this act. Heck, I had a few people, openly laugh after seeing me in a grocery store in Haliburton – this was with mask mandates in place months ago. For all the talk of freedom, why is it such a big deal to some that I, or anyone, who chooses to wear a mask. If you asked me two years ago about how I wouldn’t get sick, I would have told you were crazy. But I’ve not had a cold or flu since the start of the pandemic, which, anecdotally, is something I keep hearing from people.
Just because the provincial government and many people (me included) are ready to move on from the pandemic, that doesn’t mean the COVID-19 virus is done with us.
During the provincial government’s announcement to lift mask mandates last month, the chief medical officer of health Dr. Kieran Moore acknowledged masking requirements may return if there is a spike in COVID-19 cases. He added he hopes those who are vulnerable will continue to wear masks.
As of March 14, the province was ending mandatory vaccinate-or-test policies for workers in schools, childcare settings, hospitals and long-term care facilities. However, individual organizations can keep their own requirements and continue their strict vaccine mandates, as reported by the CBC.
Although it’s been recognized that overall data is not clear pertaining to the exact effectiveness of mask wearing to prevent transmission, because there is a lack of population level studies and how capacity limits were introduced at the same time as mask mandates, there is indication it helps. Last month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report (www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/71/wr/mm7106e1.htm) on the effectiveness of face mask or respirator wearing to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 for indoor setting. It revealed that those who wore a respirator, or KN95/N95 mask, lowered odds of transmission by 83 per cent, followed by a surgical mask at 66 per cent and a cloth mask with 56 per cent when compared to not wearing any face coverings.
Masks are part of a public health measure, which is for the consideration for others. When’s the last time you saw a doctor, nurse, or even a dental hygienist perform a procedure without a mask on? Nobody ever thinks to ask them why they’re stupid or question their political stance because they’re wearing a mask. So, why should we start now?