The wave of resistance!

In almost all countries, wearing the mask is near-universal in public places and are mandated in others. While we all make it look like a new normal, there is a whole another country with a lot of people pushing back about covering up.

In the midst of the pandemic, a small piece of cloth has incited a nationwide feud about public health, civil liberties and personal freedom in America. Some Americans refuse to wear a facial covering out of principle. Others in this country are enraged by the way that people flout the mask mandates. These people are defying the orders despite evidence that suggests that widespread use of face masks can greatly limit the transmission of the coronavirus, which is believed to occur mainly from respiratory droplets. In April, CDC recommended that all Americans wear a face mask or covering in public places where practising social distancing would be difficult, yet a sizable number of Americans still aren’t wearing masks in public, surveys suggest.

“I think people are hesitant to wear masks due to our culture and humans are used to using their faces to express emotions and communicate. It is a big change. Cultures in Asia, where respiratory viruses have caused epidemics in the past, have adapted culturally to the practice and had better results during this pandemic. I think the American public can, too,” said the Chief of Infectious Disease at Saint Peter’s University Hospital in New Brunswick, NJ, Dr Henry Redel.

As coronavirus cases surge in many parts of the U.S., health officials and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are urging Americans to wear face masks in public.

“I would also like to know where do you get the authority to reduce my oxygen,” one woman in a white ‘Trump Girl’ shirt demanded commissioners as they met to issue a mandatory-mask-in-public order to fight a surge in COVID-19 cases in the Sunshine State.

According to a professor of social and behavioural sciences at NYU School of Global Public Health, David Abrams, humans tend to long for a sense of belonging in uncertain times and that applies to people on both sides of the political spectrum. People who don’t wear masks may see it as a sign of solidarity as if they are together making a stand against authority, while those who do wear masks likely see it “as an act of altruism and a way of helping each other out,” Abrams said.

The mask is now a symbol of a particular kind of conformity, and a ritual of collective responsibility and discipline against the virus. The masks themselves might encourage this norm adherence by boosting the sense of group membership among the wearers.

A 77-year-old man who was not wearing a mask said that people wearing masks are probably driven by political scare tactics, adding that he didn’t know anyone who had contracted the new coronavirus. The man said he believed that if case counts of the virus are increasing, it’s likely due to more diagnostic testing rather than a surge in the novel coronavirus’ spread.

Even Trump himself has been reluctant to wear a mask, saying that it did not seem right to wear one while he was receiving heads of state at the White House. He put a mask on in public for the first time during a visit to a military hospital earlier this month.

The battle over masks has escalated during the final weeks of the campaign season. The general election is in November, and activists in both parties, Republican and Democrat, are working feverishly to ensure victory at the polls. Some of them have faced off on the issue of masks: as Timothy Akers, a public-health professor at Morgan State University, a historically black college in Baltimore, says: “We’re seeing politics and science literally crashing.”

The dispute over masks embodies the political dynamics of the campaign. It also reflects a classic American struggle between those who defend public safety and those who believe just as deeply in personal liberty. The conflict over masks is tense, volatile and deeply personal.

One Trump supporter, Crystal Lynn, an administrative assistant in Fairfax, Virginia, says she does not like wearing masks because they make her skin break out. Besides that, she says that she does not think that masks work: “It’s a false sense of security.” She puts on her seat belt when driving because she knows they can save your life. But masks are not “in the same category”, she says: “I don’t think a mask protects you in any way.”

The anti-maskers have expressed their views loud and clear. Yet overall people here accept the wearing of masks and have embraced them more readily than those who live in the UK. Nearly 60% of people in the US said they would always wear a face mask when they go outside, according to Covid-19 Behaviour Tracker. In the UK less than 20% said the same.

By Karishma Gwalani

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