Has the pandemic caused you to feel depressed, frustrated, sad? Then consider the photo that went viral recently. Dr. Samer Cheaib, a gynecologist from the UAE, was snapped while delivering a baby. What makes this photo so special? The newborn is shown with its hand grabbing the doctor’s mask and pulling it down to reveal his broad smile. Indeed, this picture is worth 1000 words!
This photo speaks much to how people from all over the world feel about having to wear masks during this pandemic. Masks are uncomfortable, they make it difficult to breathe, and they for sure make it impossible for others to see our smile.
Globally, many authorities – including the World Health Organization (WHO) – initially suggested that masks were not effective in preventing the spread of the coronavirus.
In recent months, there’s been increased evidence that many people with the virus do not have symptoms. But they can still be contagious – and masks can stop them from passing it on to others. On June 5, 2020, WHO changed its guidelines to include the following:
Some studies also suggest that people’s attitudes have changed. The changes appear to be partly due to a better understanding of how Covid-19 spreads.
Most people still appear much more willing to use hand sanitizer, social distance, or wash their hands regularly, than wear face masks. This is according to data from Covid-19 iCARES, a group of over 150 researchers from more than 40 countries. They want to understand people’s awareness, attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors about COVID-19. (2,3)
Results show that if everyone wears face coverings it will “protect against the most common mode of transmission ̶ droplets ̶ and to some extent maybe aerosol droplets,” says Kim Lavoie, chair of behavioral medicine at the University of Quebec at Montreal’s psychology department and one of the iCARES researchers. (2,3)
In the past few days, both US President Donald Trump and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson have been seen wearing masks in public for the first time. When our world leaders like Trump, Johnson, and Mexico’s AMLO mock the wearing of these masks, it sends a mixed message from those being broadcast by health care authorities like WHO and US Centers for Disease Control who recommend face coverings.
Sarah P. Jones, a health behavior researcher at the Imperial College London, says mask-wearing can vary. Depending on how vulnerable people feel about an illness, whether they believe the costs outweigh the benefits, and how readily available masks are.
We may all wish to be mask free after this long pandemic. But one thing is for sure ̶ the virus is not disappearing any time soon. So the new norm is to continue wearing masks for the foreseeable future, and smile.