Opinion: Just wear a mask

By Chloe Hunter

Riverside county has reentered the purple tier and infection rates are widespread throughout the county. 

The Blueprint for a Safer Economy put in place by Gov. Gavin Newsom categorizes levels of infection by county and comes with restrictions depending on infection levels. 

Wearing masks irresponsibly has played a part in Riverside County’s regression back into the purple tier. Even if only a small part of the community fails to wear masks, the practice’s effectiveness is limited. Many who refuse to wear a mask do so because of underlying beliefs about coronavirus and the government.

Some argue that requiring individuals to wear a mask is an attack on their freedom, but this is just an attempt at justifying the lack of responsibility people have toward their community. This rhetoric results in fewer attempts to stop the spread of COVID-19 and suggests living selfishly is better than stepping up to the plate and making a sacrifice for others.

Although we have learned much about how the virus is transmitted, more research is needed. Until then, wearing a mask when interacting with others in crowded areas should be a baseline practice until a vaccine is available. Cases are on the rise and we need to take action. 

Some people believe that herd immunity is what we should be striving for. Herd immunity can be achieved, but the human cost that it would require is significant. According to the Mayo Clinic, it is estimated that 70 percent of the population would need to be infected with COVID-19 and recover to stop this pandemic. This amount of infection would likely be overwhelming for the healthcare system and could lead to millions of deaths. 

To suggest that young people and those without pre-existing conditions should live life normally while the vulnerable lock themselves away from the rest of the public is unfair. Leaving the vulnerable to struggle without providing proper support networks or financial assistance is not only cruel, but defeats the argument for freedom popular with anti-maskers.

The major political polarization taking place in the United States and the tension of an election year has contributed to why mask-wearing is controversial. For any issue to be pushed largely by one side of the aisle is bound to command automatic resistance to individuals that heavily align themselves with the opposite party. 

This pandemic could be an opportunity to put political leanings aside and work to protect each other. The challenges we face are not easy and the solutions may not seem to directly benefit any of us, but cooperation could mean life or death for some. Among the American public, there is a lack of trust in researchers and officials which creates a major obstacle for implementing CDC recommendations. 

Opponents of face masks who have strong immune systems and are unafraid of the repercussions of the virus on their personal health can still accept the importance of masks for those who are immunocompromised. Not all immunocompromised people are easily identifiable and people still need to support themselves by working and shopping for basic necessities. 

Wearing a mask to protect those individuals is important because you never know who they are.