Whether you look at this as a public health crisis or a political pandemic, one thing is sure. If Coronavirus wasn’t a thing, no one would be wearing face masks. They are uncomfortable, hard to hear through, and make everyone look like everyone else. Also, I can’t open my iPad with face recognition any more because of them. So when will the masks go away?
Until a successful vaccine has been created, distributed, and used on the population, we’re cozying up with our masks. Just as with polio or chickenpox, a vaccinated population is a safe population. When enough people are vaccinated it builds up herd immunity, which then protects even those who have not received the vaccine.
Why is herd immunity important?
Herd immunity refers to a large portion of a community (the herd) becoming immune to a disease. This makes the spread of the disease from person to person unlikely. As a result, the whole herd becomes protected. So when we have vaccinated the entire global population, normalcy will return.
The percentage of a community that needs to be immune depends on the disease. For measles it’s estimated that 94% of the population must be immune to interrupt the spread. The number needed to be immune for coronavirus is unknown, but experts believe it would be higher than 60 percent. Regardless, other reasons than coronavirus exist for which wearing masks are beneficial.
How About Face Masks to Stop Flu?
For example, the regular flu season is reason enough to wear them. The regular flu season caused 40 to 50 million illnesses and 25 to 60 thousand deaths in the United States alone. Yes, we’re out of the regular flu season now, but the flu spread much the same way as coronavirus, through respiratory droplets made when people with flue cough, sneeze or talk. These droplets can land on the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. It can spread to others from 6 to 10 feet away!
A mask limits the distance those droplets can spread and even decreases the chance infected particles touch your face. It even adds a layer of protection from you casually touching your face – a habit people do about 6 times each hour on average. There is good news for some people who are more than annoyed at wearing a mask though.
Anyone exempt from regulation can stop wearing them now. Small children, those with health issues that make breathing with a mask difficult are often exempt from wearing masks. Those people should social distance as much as possible, but in a way they are one of the lucky ones. Otherwise you’re stuck with your mask.
They’re definitely here to stay for at least 2 years from now. It’s probably going to become a norm from the way state and national health administration speaks about it.
So maybe a couple years? Might as well get some stylish masks while you’re at it: