Encourage face masks, don’t legislate them
Yes they save lives but leave decision up to the individual
Get ready for the great mask faceoff.
As though the world isn’t already divided enough these days, we are now moving toward yet another visceral battleground — whether wearing face masks should be mandatory to limit the spread of infection.
Of course, this arises out of the current COVID-19 pandemic, but if indeed such a measure is made compulsory in this particular instance, it subsequently becomes extremely tempting to resurrect the same stricture during the emergence of other similarly spread diseases, such as those seasonal influenzas that regularly kill hundreds in Canada each year.
Inevitably, given their training and do-noharm oath-taking, medical professionals are already pushing the idea of mandatory masks in this country. However, many folk remain far from convinced.
These days what then usually transpires is a rapid internet sweep looking for evidence to back up one of those two opposing viewpoints: the “masks will save mankind” diehards versus the “masks are useless and actually dangerous” crowd.
We weren’t always this confrontational. (In the U.S., the mask issue is already toxic. Some storekeepers won’t allow mask wearers to even enter their premises, for heaven’s sake.)
Once, not that long ago, we could agree on the general facts of a situation yet arrive at different viewpoints. Maybe those days are gone forever.
Still, hope springs eternal. So let’s give it a whirl, just for old-time’s sake.
The wearing of masks in many Asian countries — Japan, South Korea and China — was much more common even before COVID-19 reared its ugly head: earlier virus scares allied to pollution being the main reasons. Therefore the jump to making such an action mandatory was more a small step than some giant leap.
And it worked in reducing the pandemic’s spread. Places such as Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore and the ones just mentioned imposed differing social distancing measures, some more draconian than others. Yet they all have a much lower per capita death count than western countries. One thing they have in common: wearing face masks.
Therefore, shouldn’t we be mandated to wear masks at all times in public here in Calgary? No.
Yes, it will save some lives, but then again not driving our vehicles will also lower the city’s annual death count.
Because there is such a thing as individual liberty and that invariably comes with a cost. Personally, the increased chance a virus will kill me is worth the risk as opposed to always wearing a face mask. Others will think differently and choose to don one: it’s their choice and should be encouraged, but not mandated.
Look at smoking. Few people these days would disagree drawing smoke down into your lungs is a dangerous and potentially deadly thing to do — though the tobacco industry once spent countless millions trying to persuade us otherwise.
It’s a major contributor to cancers and heart disease, the two leading killers in Canada, claiming about 130,000 people each year.
Yet we never made smoking illegal. Instead, we educated people on the dangers, placed restrictions in certain areas and succeeded in lowering the number of citizens who lit up. You’re not encouraged to walk down a city street smoking a cigarette, but it isn’t unlawful.
The same should apply to mask-wearing. In certain locations it could be mandatory — visiting a continuing-care centre, for example — but in others, the decision should be left to the individual.
No one is an island, of course. So, yes, a decision to exercise your own freedom could impact others. But the vast majority of people are good citizens. They have vehicles capable of travelling at vast speed yet don’t indulge themselves on city streets. So people who feel sick will stay home or, yes, wear a mask.
So encourage masks but leave compliance to the individual and limit locations where such use is indeed mandatory.
What counts in life is more than the length of time lived. The joy of that journey also matters.