Face masks are the new normal

The world is in the middle of a very serious pandemic that has killed many. Wearing face masks helps to prevent the spread of COVID-19. They are now required or strongly encouraged in Alaska at many government agencies and businesses such as airports, hospitals, retail stores and restaurants for workers and customers. In Los Angeles, all residents are required to wear face coverings when going outside.

Graphic by Michaeline Collins.

COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on the health of people around the world. The U.S. has 1,384,930 confirmed cases and 83,947 deaths as of May 14, according to the Centers for Disease Control, or CDC. Alaska has 387 current total cases, 10 deaths and four new cases have been confirmed, as of May 14. Alaska is also in the beginning phases of reopening services previously closed, due to COVID-19 restrictions.

The threat of a resurgence is a possibility, according to Dr. Anthony Fauci, who is the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. He served as a head advisor during the HIV epidemic and has been a top advisor at The White House for decades.

“The consequences could be really serious if cities and states reopen the U.S. economy too quickly with the coronavirus still spreading,” said Fauci in a United States Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions on May 12.

There is currently no vaccine and no definite curative treatment for COVID-19, according to the CDC. Their guidelines for protection include frequent hand washing, social distancing, sanitizing surroundings and face masks. The virus is spread by respiratory droplets, which infect through the nose, mouth and eyes. It is also speculated that virus transmission is spread via aerosol.

Face masks prevent this spread in different ways. Wearing a face mask partially protects from inhaling droplets or aerosols. They prevent the spread of respiratory droplets from people who are confirmed to be infected or people who may be infected but are unaware of it.

The public opinion on wearing them differs. The safety of the community should be taken into consideration, according to Ernestine Ndour, a sophomore at UAA who is majoring in business.

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“I think people should wear masks around public places where they will be with non-family members. This disease can infect anyone, so people have to be careful because the health of the community is important to thrive as a society,” Ndour said.

Some are asymptomatic and carry the virus but do not know they have it since they show no symptoms. This can cause the virus to spread easily. It is important to wear a mask to protect others, according to the WHO.

Even though wearing face masks to prevent the spread of the virus is recommended by the WHO, CDC and many other agencies, there are still those that do not agree that wearing them is necessary. An incident occurred on May 12 in the Bay Area of San Francisco, where a customer at a local 7-11 refused to wear a face mask upon entrance to the store and was asked to leave for the safety of all those in the store. People who refuse to wear face masks have different reasons for doing so, such as discomfort or feeling like their rights are infringed upon.

Marie Ries is an international student from Germany who attended UAA this spring. She says that wearing a mask is needed at this time.

“I don’t mind wearing masks in public as long as it helps contain the spread of the virus. It’s still really weird for me to see them everywhere, and I also think it changes human interaction — you can’t smile at anyone. That’s the new normal right now,” Ries said.

Others think wearing face masks is the logical thing to do. Robert Alexander is a PC Analyst for a large hospitality company in Alaska. He thinks that there is little reason to not wear a mask.

“People are dying. It’s not worth the risk to not wear one,” Alexander said.

For more up to date information about COVID-19, visit the CDC, the WHO and the Municipality of Anchorage Coronavirus Response site. For a tutorial about how to make face masks, visit the CDC cloth face covering page. Cloth masks can also be purchased online from various retailers.