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The Mask Debate

People in most countries across the world are currently being told or recommended to wear face masks to protect themselves and others from COVID-19, or coronavirus. However, many people question whether this goes against our rights, or if it helps stop the spread at all. Despite the personal beliefs of some, masks are without a doubt helpful in containing this virus and they do not go against any rights in the constitution.

Once the government began recommending and/or mandating masks, protests began to spark because people believed their rights were being infringed on. This debate raging across the U.S. also began partly after President Trump’s rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where there were very few masks, and the President did not seem concerned by this. One of the most popular slogans of this movement is also used in the abortion debate, “My Body, My Choice.” Protesters of masks believe that forcing the public to wear masks goes against their first amendment and their right to liberty. They also believe that masks are not proven to work. An anti-mask bar owner in Texas says, “We don’t live in a communist country! This is supposed to be America,” and, “It’s an individual choice. There’s been nothing scientific that says masks are effective. I choose not to wear it, but I don’t let thousands of people breathe on me.” However, both of these statements are disproved by facts.

First, let’s tackle the belief that there is no proof that masks work. Many disbelievers hold their opinion that masks don’t work partly because the CDC did not recommend use of them in the beginning of the pandemic. However, according to Chin-Hong, a worker at the CDC, explains that they originally said to not wear masks because they had a “false sense of security” for how bad the virus would be, and they wanted to save masks for health care workers. In addition, now that masks are in use, there are statistics showing how much they have slowed the spread of the virus. In fact, five days after a mandate was put in place, the growth rate was slower by .9 percent, and three weeks after the mandate it had slowed by 2 percentage points. Ucsf.com also offers two stories describing the effectiveness of masks. In the first story, a man flying from China to Toronto who was positive for COVID-19 wore a mask on his flight and didn’t get anyone around him sick. In the second case, two hairstylists did their jobs while wearing masks and came into contact with around 140 clients, and none of those clients tested positive. Therefore, masks are proven to help reduce the spread of coronavirus.

The other argument against wearing masks, the idea that it’s against our constitutional right, can also be debunked by facts. First, people say that wearing masks goes against our first amendment, which is the right to free speech and expressing oneself. However, masks in no way go against this right. As theconversation.com says, “At most, it limits wear and how you can speak.” In 1905, people had similar civil right concerns regarding the required smallpox vaccination. In both cases, the Supreme Court has upheld its belief that “constitutional rights and the ideals of limited government do not … allow (citizens) to wholly shirk their social obligation to their fellow Americans or to society as a whole…. After all, we do not have a constitutional right to infect others.” In addition, theconversation.com explains how constitutional rights are conditional, meaning that they can change based on the situation at hand. According to theconversation.com, “The most basic and important of these conditions is that our exercise of rights must not endanger others (and in so doing violate their rights) or the public welfare.” Therefore, mandating masks does not violate any constitutional rights.

Because the mandate of masks helps stop the spread of the virus, if you wish to see the end of this pandemic any time soon, please wear a mask. Unless you are unable to wear one for medical reasons, a piece of cloth covering less than half of your face is a minor inconvenience for the wearer, but a potential life saver for someone in an at-risk group. You are endangering your family and friends if you refuse.