The new school year and the increasing dangers of the delta variant have caused another wave of debates about mask wearing. Although states and territories differ on their mandates, public health experts strongly encourage all people over the age of two to continue to wear masks. As advocates for science and compassion, humanists have many reasons to wear masks to help decrease the spread of COVID-19. Here are some inspired by the Ten Commitments:
1. Altruism – I want to help others stay safe. Not just my family and friends, but also my coworkers, clients, customers, and communities. I want to protect the people I encounter while walking on the sidewalk, enjoying a restaurant or bar, using a post office or bank, or visiting a store.
2. Critical Thinking – I may not know who around me is vaccinated, has COVID, or is immunocompromised. I do know that the risk of spreading the virus is immensely decreased when all parties are wearing masks because it is harder for droplets from sneezes and coughs to be released into the air. Even though it might feel uncomfortable, I understand that mask wearing does not cause low oxygen levels and is much better than needing a ventilator to breathe if I were to contract COVID. I also know that vaccination doesn’t 100% protect me from a virus so other forms of precaution are vital.
3. Empathy – I show I care about other’s health by wearing a mask. Even if we are both vaccinated, some people prefer to keep masks on during encounters to be as safe as possible, especially if they have health concerns or interact with people who are unvaccinated (including children under 12 years old) or immunocompromised. We’ve all struggled with the pandemic and look forward to it being over, so it’s important to think outside of myself to consider another’s comfort and safety so we can get to that happy future together sooner.
4. Environmentalism – I use cloth masks because they are easy to wash and reusable so I don’t add to plastic pollution. There are many positive and negative environmental effects of COVID, including harm caused by the increase of burials and cremations, and uncertainties about COVID’s impact on various animals.
5. Ethical Development – Wearing a mask is an easy way I can help stop the spread of COVID and other illnesses every day. If we all wear masks, we can keep more people safe and reduce the number of sick patients depending on caregivers and medical professionals.
6. Global Awareness – I recognize that viruses don’t care about state or country borders so my local actions against COVID have a global impact. On a small scale, wearing a mask and encouraging others to do the same can be seen as solidarity with communities in other areas. On a large scale, decreasing COVID cases in the US enables us to increase support for countries struggling to obtain needed resources.
7. Humility – I don’t know if I have COVID even if I’m not presenting symptoms. I don’t want to spread the virus to others, especially if they or people they interact with have weakened immune systems.
8. Peace and Social Justice – I am fortunate to have good health care, the ability to work from home, and a supportive local network to help me if I get COVID. I wear a mask to protect those more vulnerable to COVID due to lack of community, health issues, and financial burdens caused by lost work time or unemployment, hospital bills, and unforeseen expenses.
9. Responsibility – I always bring a mask with me whenever I leave my home so I’m prepared to put it on when I encounter other people.
10. Service and Participation – Like shirts and buttons, masks are an opportunity to represent my values and show my support. I have a mask made by a friend who was offering them for free in early 2020 and a mask from a non-profit I work with on secular education issues. I’ve seen masks with powerful statements, intricate designs, and recycled cloth. Masks are now a new form of self-expression and creativity to enjoy.
Why do you wear your mask?