THE FRONT HALL – One, two, four, eight. I am counting my face masks. Why? Because they are taking over my home. On the table by my front door are 11 masks. I put one there to be worn when the Prime delivery person, coughing and sneezing, drops off three Super-Delux 18-Layer PowerMasks. Others just appeared. There are eight more by the back door and six in my car. How many face masks do you have? Probably more than you think. There are those in your home, car, office and the 24-hour gym where you go at 3:30 a.m. to avoid crowds, except scores more have the same idea. Doctors and nurses, aides and EMSers always wear a mask, no doubt even when they’re in bed asleep. Do you ever get halfway across a parking lot to a store, in the driving rain, and remember you forgot your mask?
Remember in the beginning of the pandemic, back in March when our President said the COVID-19 virus was “a hoax,” people were caught short when they were suddenly told to mask up. I saw handkerchiefs, bandanas and ski masks over faces. (The guy wearing pantyhose over his head while running from a liquor store doesn’t count.) Soon we got the hang of it, and more colorful and original masks showed up sporting an American flag, pink flowers, a Kleenex -- clipped to the ears with two clothes pins -- and sports logos. I have masks touting the Houston Rockets and the logo of a relative’s business. Sen. Ted Cruz wears a mask showing the Lone Star Flag, but that might be more for disguise than health.
At the beginning of the pandemic, a lot of Americans thought masks were unnecessary, an antifa plot, a government takeover of our faces or were pushed by the same people who think vaccinations are safe. You could easily spot people’s political feelings by their face -- a new meaning for “face recognition.” Those among us who wore masks were Chardonnay-sipping, Tesla-driving leftists who watched MSNBC and read newspapers. Maskless Americans were true patriots who stood up for their Second Amendment rights to carry unconcealed howitzers, toppled statues of abolitionists and only watched Fox News.
Even today there are a lot of people who refuse to cover their face. Posts on Facebook, for example, state that masks actually raise the risk of contracting COVID-19. East Texas Congressman Louie Gohmert, who continually embarrasses Texas and got re-elected in November by the cast of “Deliverance,” said he didn’t believe in wearing a mask but had to wear one in the Capitol. Then he came down with COVID-19. He said he caught it from wearing a mask. Social scientists have the anti-wearers pin-pointed. A survey found the percentage of folks who report always wearing a mask increases with age, income and education. Democrats are most likely to always wear a mask, with 82 percent reporting the use compared to 66 percent of Republicans and 69 percent of Independents. Gender plays a role. Women (77 percent) are more likely than men (67 percent) to say "always."
If you are confused about this matter, no wonder. At the start of last February, the C.D.C. issued its first formal recommendations on its website, saying that the agency “does not currently recommend the use of face masks among the general public.” Jerome M. Adams, the U.S. surgeon general, tweeted later that month, “Seriously people — STOP BUYING MASKS!” Now everyone in a white lab coat is going on TV to order us to don one. As the saying goes, if one is good, two are better. How many coverings should we wear? Both New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick, Kamala Harris and Joe Biden wear two. Maybe 15 or 20 would be safer.
Which states have the highest and lowest percentage of citizens who want to live? New research by COVIDcast found Wyoming has the fewest people wearing masks: 65.6 percent. The next-lowest mask states are South Dakota and North Dakota. The Dakotas are also the top two states with the highest numbers of newly reported COVID cases per 100,000 people, and the most newly reported COVID deaths, although these figures change constantly. Men’s Health magazine found that, at the time of their survey, Massachusetts had the highest percentage of people wearing masks, at 94.87 percent. This is followed by Maryland, Rhode Island, Connecticut and Vermont. Although not a state, the District of Columbia has the highest levels of compliance, with 97.22 percent. I can’t determine where Texas stands in the rankings, with percentages and graphs. I think our leaders in Austin use an abacus. Speaking of our leaders, in the new session of the Texas Legislature, in the Senate masks were not required and, during the opening gathering, at least half of lawmakers were maskless while seated at their desks, but House members were required to mask up. Legislators and their guests were required to test negative for COVID-19 before entering the Capitol. All of this, mind you, as infections in Austin reached all-time highs.
Why do so many Americans refuse an obvious and simple safety measure? Those who study such matters call it “psychological reactance.” Quoting from their studies – some may call this plagiarism, I call it research – there are people who vehemently believe they have freedom to behave how they wish, and “experience negative emotions” when this freedom is threatened. So, when told to wear a mask and socially distance (and wash their hands), anger and other negative emotions follow. To show their independence from government instructions, many attempt to show their freedom by not complying with the advice. They also carry Confederate flags and steal Nancy Pelosi’s lectern.
I have mixed feelings when I see on TV those masses of shouting, angry demonstrators standing shoulder-to-shoulder without masks. One, these poor souls are flouting expert and simple instructions to save their lives. Two, according to all studies, this problem will soon solve itself.
Ashby masks at firstname.lastname@example.org