Zorba Paster: Protect Yourself — And Others — By Wearing A Mask

Being A Good Citizen Is Important During A Pandemic

Eden, Janine and Jim (CC-BY)

As of this writing, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that for every one case of COVID-19 found, there are 12 cases not discovered because of lack of testing.

Next up, there are a number of deaths from COVID-19 that have been undercounted. Why? Before we recognized we had a pandemic, people were dying of COVID-19 but were thought to be dying from a common pneumonia.

That means the 130,000-plus deaths already attributed to COVID-19 are probably more like 150,000 deaths — and climbing. So the question is: How do you protect yourself and your community?

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Obviously, it’s social distancing and masks. Many people ask me about masks and what kind to get. For more details on types of masks and what cloth to use or what amount of layers are best, this NPR article spells it all out very well. It’s an excellent resource.

The most important aspect of wearing a mask is it keeps you from infecting others. It also might stop others from infecting you. Equally important, when you wear a mask it reminds you not to touch your mouth, your nose and your eyes. Plus, it’s a reminder to social distance.

Now that it’s summer I see more and more people not wearing masks. Lots of them older Wisconsinites like me. I constantly wonder why they’re not.

All of us “mask wearers” know that they’re not the most comfortable thing in the world, but then again, being a good citizen is important in a pandemic. Mask wearing is just like hand-washing. It’s what we all need to do to keep all of us safer.

If you happen to be one of those — and there are a few — who think this is a political statement, then I must jump in and ask an analogous question: Is not smoking at a restaurant a political statement? Is giving your keys to a friend after having three beers and getting a ride home a political statement? Of course not.

It’s good citizenship. It protects others — and we’re all in this together. If all of us in the U.S. masked up and socially distanced, the pandemic would flatten and flatten, giving us the time we need to develop the vaccine. That’s the only thing that stopped the polio epidemic and will be the only thing that will stop this one.

In the county where I live, Dane, the order came to mask up. But in the counties next to us, we’re leaving it to individuals to do the right thing — that means masking up. Now what are the differences?

The N95 is best, but it’s hard to get and rather hot. Next best are the surgical masks, the ones that are baby blue. They collect particles you breathe out and are better than most cloth masks, though not as good as the N95.

Finally, there are the cloth masks, homemade and bandana types. These are the least effective, but still effective and the most comfortable for general wear.

And that’s what’s important, that you wear a mask. If you are at a high risk, if you’re on chemo, if you have multiple medical problems and you’re old, then the surgical mask or N95 is for you.

I like the “fashion statement” cloth ones. Why? Because people are more likely to wear them. And that’s the issue.

Years ago, I had a trainer. He was a young guy, going to UW-Madison for pre-law, but he needed money, so he decided to offer personal training. This guy was a former hockey player in the Canadian B league who knew he’d never make it to a Stanley Cup team, so he chose law over hockey. Smart move.

I once asked him: Why do you hockey guys get dressed up in sport coats and ties before you go out and knock each other around? His answer was simple. He said, “Look good, feel good, play good.”

My spin: Taking that homespun wisdom to heart, find a mask you like so you can look good, feel good and stay well.

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