Face masks have been protecting health for centuries. Therefore, there are many reasons face masks will stick around after the pandemic.
Which Masks Work
Quality masks provide 2-way protection against airborne pathogens that travel in respiratory droplets from exhaled breath.
Cloth masks offer low protection, made slightly better with an added filter. Surgical masks are better—especially when you tie knots in the ear bands and tuck in the mask’s edges to better conform to your face. The best masks are the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) approved N95s, while KF94 masks made in Korea are also reliable because Korea has strong regulatory controls.
Evidence From Asian Nations
Mask wearing is a common courtesy in many Asian cultures, where those suffering from colds wear them to prevent spreading germs to others. Many in Asian nations also wear masks to protect themselves from air pollution.
When COVID-19 hit, several Asian nations already had experience managing outbreaks of diseases like SARS, and they instituted testing, isolation, and mask-wearing quickly. Their infection and death rates remained relatively low as a result.
Why Face Masks Will Stick Around
It’s More Than COVID
During flu season, infection rates stay lower when people put on masks. Now that most Americans are pro mask wearers, many may choose to continue wearing masks as general disease protection. Listening to others cough and sneeze into their elbows (if they bother to cover their cough at all) on public transportation or at concerts, stores, and gyms makes mask wearing a no-brainer.
Masks Ease Social Anxiety
Masks can be barriers against physical disease, but some may be surprised to know they can also ease anxiety. People may be reluctant to give up masks in crowded public spaces because masks provide an element of protection from social anxiety—removing the pressure some people feel to smile or make small talk. Masks aren’t a solution to anxiety disorders, but they provide some relief to sufferers while they deal with the deeper issues that cause anxiety.
Masks Have Become Fashionable
In the early days of the pandemic in the US, it seemed like every company or crafter was jumping into making masks. The fashion industry noticed this quickly and began showing designer masks on fashion runways. Public figures also picked up on the trend, sporting masks that coordinated with their outfits.
Masks Are Good Business
Among other benefits, businesses that supply their employees with custom branded masks provide reassurance to customers that the business takes safety seriously, both for employees and patrons.
There will always be those who refuse to wear masks. They may even continue to harass those who wear them or avoid businesses that require masks, but many polls show that a majority of Americans support mask-wearing. The level of support for masks now is another reasons face masks will stick around after the pandemic.