Anti-mask movement is a lack of empathy, nothing more

Category:  Opinions
Wednesday, October 6th, 2021 at 9:01 AM
Anti-mask movement is a lack of empathy, nothing more by Emma McNeeley
Graphic courtesy of Eric Johnson

Wearing masks has become a sign of empathy toward others and their health, rather than just being a small part of reducing COVID-19 spread. When anti-mask protests hit the news, and when videos go viral of “Karen seen losing her mind over mask policy,” a scroll through the comments has a theme: those not wearing masks show a lack of respect toward others.

Let’s be frank. The anti-mask movement isn’t based on science. It’s annoyance over having to care about others and not being able to live a “normal life.”

At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, recommendations included social distancing, washing hands and wearing masks to prevent spreading germs and the virus to others. As time progressed, these requirements only continued to grow. In Pennsylvania, by April 2020, it became a requirement to wear a mask when entering stores and businesses, and similar policies were mandated across the country. Even today, the requests grow: the Center for Disease Control (CDC) just released tips of how to wear your mask, including advice on layering up multiple masks.

Even the initial mask mandate was met with criticism that grew into protests. On June 26, 2020, in Vancouver, Washington, members of Patriot Prayer and People’s Rights Washington protested and rallied against these mask rules. This is just one example of belief that masks were infringing on people’s rights. Vox spoke to an Ohio woman, who shared similar beliefs to the protestors, “It’s a violation of my freedom, I think, and then also I just don’t think they work,” Amy said. “A lot of stuff says it does, but then some doesn’t.”

Another example of these anti-mask protests was in Los Angeles, California at a grocery store and mall, where protesters clashed with some shoppers in the process. This was another example of people feeling as though their rights were being infringed on when asked to protect vulnerable people’s health.

I’ve noticed that many people online who have spoken against masks usually hold this same belief. They claim that masks don’t work and proceed to not wear one. The problem is, you don’t wear a mask to just protect yourself, but to protect others. These anti-maskers feel they shouldn’t wear one because it won’t work, when really they may have COVID-19 and in the process end up harming others by spreading it.

The CDC explains how masks help with a study on their site, stating, “Masks are primarily intended to reduce the emission of virus-laden droplets (‘source control’), which is especially relevant for asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic infected wearers who feel well and may be unaware of their infectiousness to others, and who are estimated to account for more than 50% of transmissions.”

So, when someone refuses to wear a mask, they really aren’t helping themselves, but their actions are especially harmful to others. If an anti-masker had no symptoms and decides to be around others without their mask, they could still spread the virus, and someone older or someone with an underlying disease could face severe symptoms or die. It is selfish and reckless to push these ideas further. An example of this was seen at the Rose Garden Party held by former U.S. President Donald Trump. There were little to no masks and days later the president contracted COVID-19. It was also spread to Kellyanne Conway who passed it onto her daughter Claudia, who shared it on TikTok.

I’ve been big on wearing masks. With family that could be harmed by this pandemic, I care a lot about safety for myself and others. When those on social media call out someone for not wearing a mask, the argument is that they are being inconsiderate of not protecting others. The truth is, it doesn’t faze them. There have been several occasions where people have responded to tweets saying they can’t consider other people, or that it doesn’t matter to them.

A personal example I saw of this was Bethany Mandel, who is an editor for Ricochet, a conservative chat platform. On May 6, 2020 she posted in anger about the pandemic (a Tweet that ended up going viral). The most notable takeaway was the start of her tweet, which said, “You can call me a grandma killer.”

The internet’s response was people calling her a “grandma killer,” of course, but also responses about killing others who are essential workers.

The idea of having regard for others’ health and having it be an inconvenience is the reality. The more I’ve watched anti-maskers, the more I see that they don’t care if the masks work, they just feel they’ll be safe and that it doesn’t matter if anyone else is harmed because they don’t know them.

It’s a lack of empathy; it’s wanting to go out and thinking you’ll be fine. I’ve seen a family member be this same exact way, feeling that these rules were an annoyance. Since then, they have contracted COVID-19 by being around those who share their lack of consideration. These days, wearing a mask is seen as not just following guidelines, but having common decency toward others and their loved ones’ health and safety.

Emma McNeeley| @edinboronow

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