Pipestone Flyer Editor, Shaela Dansereau.

Pipestone Flyer Editor, Shaela Dansereau.

DANSEREAU: Mask up: Ignorance isn’t bliss

You are not special; wear your mask.

Is it annoying? Sure. Is it doable? Absolutely.

Doctors across social media are making posts disproving the theory that you don’t get enough oxygen when wearing your mask. Alberta gets bitterly cold in the winter. So cold in fact that we’ll wrap layers of scarves and clothing around our necks and face to help keep us warm. Has anybody died of scarf-induced hypoxia this winter?

As pointed out in a tweet from popular blogging site Scary Mommy, “In the U.S. women go back to work engorged in nursing bras, wearing adult diapers, maternity pants over healing c-section scars, and heels on swollen ankles because maternity leave is an afterthought. But please, tell me how enraged you are about wearing a mask in Costco.”

People, and not just in the U.S., are throwing toddler akin tantrums when asked to put on their face masks in public. They’ll throw things from their carts and scream at employees in shops about how a facemask won’t protect them from the virus anyway. To those people: you are missing the point.

When you wear a facemask the main intention isn’t that it will prevent you from catching COVID-19. The point of wearing a facemask is helping to protect others from you, to provide a barrier between your mouth and nose and the air around you. By wearing a mask, you reduce the droplets that you release into the air.

If you are asymptomatic you may not know you have COVID-19, however wearing a mask will help protect others around you.

Does wearing a mask replace the need for social distancing and vigorous hand washing? Absolutely not. It is extremely important to keep up with these health practices in addition to wearing a mask.

Our province, our country is not immune from facing a second wave of the virus. It is time to step up and be responsible.

In a June 29 tweet, Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Deena Hinshaw reiterated, “No event, community or region of the province is immune from the virus. Simple acts like wearing a mask when out in public, washing your hands regularly, and staying home when sick is the best way to protect yourself, and everyone around you from #COVID19AB.”

I think that for the most part we are privileged in Alberta because compared to the rest of the world our deaths and active cases due to COVID-19 are relatively low. But then I stop to think about how many people are suffering from this incredibly contagious virus and remind myself that it is selfish for me to go run errands in the city without my mask.

Why should I expect retail workers, or grocery store clerks or anybody who is working in close contact with strangers right now, to wear a mask if I won’t?

Sure it’s irritating, and everyone has reached their threshold of tolerance for this pandemic and then stepped over it some more, but do you want to be the reason somebody else gets sick? The reason they will never go home to their loved ones again?

Francene Bailey from Hartford, Connecticut in the U.S told her story to the Washington Post in May. She recounted how she caught COVID-19 and did everything in her power to isolate from her family, including her mother who lived in the same house as Bailey.

One day after not seeing her family for so long, and not being able to sleep because of the pain she was in from the virus, Bailey had a panic attack.

“I took off running because I wanted to find air. I went downstairs, and I kind of tripped over my slippers. My mom heard me, and she came to the bottom of the stairs. I was gasping and sobbing. I couldn’t talk. She told me: ‘Take off your mask. Let the air in,’” Bailey said in the article.

That moment, one single moment, of her hugging her mom was all it took. Her mom caught the virus and passed away just days later.

Bailey’s pain through her words is palpable. Wearing a mask is what helped protect others, and she told her story to the world to remind people that this virus isn’t some over-sensationalized flu.

Others who have tested positive for COVID-19 are reaching out on social media to explain how getting sick with COVID has taken away months of their lives. Not because they can’t go out and enjoy themselves, or because their plans have been thrown for a loop by the pandemic. Because they are debilitatingly ill and unable to function as they once could, regardless of their age or physicality.

In a tweet by Dani Oliver, that has been shared almost 125k times, she explains that there are support groups popping up all over the Internet for those with COVID because the symptoms are wide, and terrifying to deal with alone; and with little to no concrete answers on what will help.

From extreme tachycardia (high heart rate), severe chest pain, tremendous amounts of fatigue, GI problems, nausea, constant shortness of breath to neurological symptoms including delirium and hallucinations; Oliver and others all over the world are experiencing COVID-19 first hand.

To reiterate, I believe it is selfish to discount the experiences of those who have dealt with COVID-19 on a greater scale than we have. It is selfish to call this pandemic a hoax, not to mention extremely disrespectful to all the families who have lost loved ones to the virus.

I don’t wear a mask because I like it. I wear a mask because I am empathetic, because it is tested and shown to reduce the likelihood of spread of the virus in public. And nothing is a guarantee, but even if it only helps a little, even if it prevents just one person from getting sick, isn’t it worth the hassle? I sure think so.