With key state and federal elections looming in November, one would think our elected officials might want to take steps to make sure their economic reopening plans are not derailed by a second wave of coronavirus outbreaks returning us to lockdown status. Wearing masks in public would do much to reduce the odds of that happening.
If you look at what some other countries have done to keep their death rates down and economies working (better, anyway), there is one common denominator—wearing masks in public. Take Japan as a great example.
As of Monday morning, the COVID-19 death total in Japan stood at 633, while the United States death toll had reached 80,574. Of course, Japan has a lower population, 126.5 million, than the United States, 328.2 million. Keep in mind, however, that Japan’s population density is 898 people per square mile, compared to our 94 people per square mile, so people live much closer to each other there than we do here.
For an accurate comparison of each country, you need to look at the per capita death rates. In Japan, there have been 5.0 deaths for every million residents, while in the United States we stand at 245.5 deaths for every million residents. That’s a staggering difference.
And, Japan has kept its death rate lower despite having no lockdown, still-active mass transportation, many of its businesses remaining open, and no broad contact tracing program. Japan has been practicing social distancing and, most importantly, nearly everyone is wearing a mask.
Wearing masks is nothing new in Japan. For decades now, the Japanese have been wearing masks, especially when in public during times of annual flu outbreaks. It’s a move the Japanese have taken to keep themselves, and each other, healthy.
So, could wearing masks help us get back to normal more quickly? One study says yes.
According to work being conducted by the University of California-Berkeley, if 80 percent of us wore masks—whether they are commercially produced or handmade—COVID-19 infections rates could statistically drop to approximately one-twelfth of what they are now, compared to not wearing masks.
While wearing masks in much of southeast Asia is commonplace, doing so in the United States has somehow become a political hot potato. While many (generally liberal) people feel that wearing a mask helps reduce the spread of the virus for the betterment of the country, others (generally conservative) feel requiring them infringes on people’s rights. Ironically, many of the same people who are protesting to reopen the economy, are the same ones who are refusing to wear masks, when doing so would actually help the country reopen more quickly.
No matter the debate, the evidence is pretty clear that wearing masks in public (along with continuing to social distance and using rigorous hand-washing and other disinfecting techniques) could help us return to normal more quickly. It could help end restrictions faster, and it could give us a better chance to avoid a second wave of the virus.
It’s clear there will be no government mandate to wear masks in public, but if you are itching to get back to your favorite restaurant with a large group of friends, attend a baseball game, reopen your business, or get back to work, wear a mask. It will help make all of those things happen more quickly.
Instructions from the CDC on how to make a mask can be found at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/diy-cloth-face-coverings.html