Why You Should Still Wear Masks as the Economy Opens
This is an article “Why You Should Still Wear Masks as the Economy Opens” by Marc Primo
There’s a lot of confusion right now among business owners and the general public on mask-wearing as the economy across states starts to slowly reopen. Is it already safe to throw away face masks and do away with social distancing, now that vaccine rollouts in the country are in full swing? The short answer is: NO.
Since the start of the pandemic, face masks have become a life essential for most people all over the world because they serve as our first line of defense against COVID-19. The problem is that even though they provide considerable protection, not everyone will get used to wearing them for most of the day, especially when employees are called back to offices and on the field. Aside from this, many citizens are not even sure if the face masks they wear are of medical-grade quality.
With recent reports on how federal agents have seized over 10 million counterfeit N95 respirators that came in from China, demand for medical-grade face masks and respirators produced in the country are still on the rise. However, the main debate is simply about whether or not we should still wear face masks, even if over 50% of American adults have already been vaccinated.
New COVID-19 variants
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently announced that relaxation on mask-wearing will be awarded to individuals who have completed their vaccination jabs, yet maintains strict protocol on venues and events such as ball games, public spaces, and crowded functions. As for maintaining everyone’s protection against COVID-19 and its new variants, the CDC remains firm in its advice that face masks are still essential defense tools, while herd immunity has not been achieved in the country.
With the emergence of several variants of concern (VOC) including the United Kingdom, South African, and Brazilian strains which are said to be 2.5 times more contagious than the original variant, many people around the world are not putting their guard down just yet. Because of this, face mask production is still in full swing worldwide, but concerns are growing regarding fly-by-night manufacturers who can deliver more harm than protection when the global economy returns to full swing.
The American brand 3M---one of the largest mask producers of face masks in the country---produced over two billion N95 respirators last year yet failed to meet the overall demand, prompting bogus manufacturers to sell counterfeits.
Since the pandemic broke out, many individuals opted for the more common single-use surgical masks which only provide a 30% level of protection compared to the medical-grade N95 or KN95 respirators that can block 95% of floating aerosol particles.
Today, after a year of dealing with COVID-19, the country is somehow giving in to complacency and fatigue to infection protocols, especially when masks became political symbols that divided the nation. Without a doubt, this is not a good thing both from a healthcare and economic standpoint as it could delay the administration’s aim to at least achieve herd immunity through vaccination rollouts. Prolonging the pandemic can cause more lockdowns as new cases surge, which can be devastating to more micro, small, and medium companies that have already suffered the biggest blows.
Why we still need to wear masks
The most painful thing every entrepreneur learned from the pandemic is that it is a double-edged sword that didn’t only become a healthcare crisis, but also the worst economic recession since the Great Depression. Governments continue to facilitate meticulous checks and balances to address hospital saturation due to rising COVID-19 cases and sustainability for entrepreneurs who hae lost their businesses.
Of course, it’s an understatement to say that 2020 was not kind to the working global population, with more employees being furloughed or laid off and companies being shuttered just one year after the outbreak. For those who are categorized as essential services, having a job is good, but the risks of being exposed to the virus are much higher unless they have already been vaccinated.
Mask-wearing on a global scale is still necessary as even if the country achieves herd immunity while the many growth and emerging markets around the world are still struggling to secure vaccines, the global business will remain at a standstill. This is because vaccinated individuals still have a chance to contract the coronavirus and spread it to others who have not been vaccinated yet. This reality alone makes mask-wearing today just as compulsory as before.
Currently, India and Brazil are experiencing high infection rates that have oversaturated hospitals and are significantly damaging their respective economies. Without any strict infection protocols in place, not only will these countries generate higher fatality numbers, but also reduce their GDP to alarming levels moving forward.
Facing the future normal
As the Biden administration passed the Defense Production Act to amplify the production of personal protective equipment (PPEs) and face masks locally, stringent infection protocols are still in effect across 27 states while inoculation efforts are ongoing.
The CDC further recommends the wearing of face masks, social distancing, and the practice of proper hygiene to sustain efforts to curb the rise of COVID-19 cases, despite increasing numbers of vaccinated individuals and more lenient eligibility standards for the population.
On the World Health Organization’s (WHO) part, available vaccines regardless of their efficacy rates are all effective in preventing carriers from becoming gravely ill or, worse, dying from COVID-19, and the benefits still outweigh the potential risks, including less than 1% recorded cases of blood clots from certain brands.
Perhaps the most recent findings are from the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), which reveal that younger Americans aged 20-49 are more prone to catching VOCs and becoming asymptomatic spreaders in the workplace and suggest that it has something to do with maintaining mask-wearing efforts.
While this might be the case for countries all over the world, an imminent return to normalcy is still far-fetched, and face masks will likely remain a permanent fixture of our future normal as the wheels of the global economy slowly start to turn again.