Anti-Maskers have a point...
The purpose of mask use is confusing. It started in the beginning when the US government and the World Health Organization recommended that only sick people wear masks. Then they changed their stance. Then the CDC said people who were vaccinated could take off their masks. Then they changed their stance. Anti-maskers have a point – when do we know what to believe?
Anti-maskers also cite a big Danish study that showed that masks did not protect the wearer. (1) This is mostly true too. Another study showed that 1% leak in a mask reduces protection by 50%. (2) This means that any mask not worn completely tightly sealed does not protect the wearer much.
Does this mean that we should stop wearing masks? The answer is quite the contrary, and might not be intuitive. The reason is that even loose masks block the majority of emissions from our mouths and noses, when we speak, cough, or sneeze. If everybody in the group is wearing a mask, most of these emissions will be blocked. This is why many studies have shown that communities or groups where mask wearing is widely adopted have greatly reduced virus spread overall. Essentially, your mask protects others, and others’ masks protect you.
Some people say they want the freedom of not wearing a mask. However, as illustrated above, not wearing a mask puts others in danger, because you could be asymptomatic and spreading the virus. If everybody refuses to wear a mask, then the whole community will be worse off.
Many confusing news reports say various things about masks and vaccines. It is hard to tell what is true and what is not. A study involving Stanford University students showed that even highly educated people might not always be able to tell what news is fake and what news is real. While vaccines are more invasive, masks are only worn on the outside of our bodies. They might create minor discomfort, but they are not permanent. An epidemic requires that people change their normal behavior. Given that multiple studies have shown that we are all better off when everybody wears a mask, why not just put one on while we’re still in this epidemic? The trick is, just pick a very good comfortable mask, and you will find that wearing a mask isn’t that bad after all!
(1) New York Times, Nov. 24, 2020 “A New Study Questions Whether Masks Protect Wearers. You Need to Wear Them Anyway.”
(2) Science Magazine, Aug 27, 2021. “Airborne transmission of respiratory viruses”