Anti-mask protests target the wrong problem

A faceted mannequin head wearing a blue mask with a black “X” over it cross the pacific

Remembering the bigger picture

by rayanne gwilliam, Contributor

I’m going to preface this by stating that I don’t like wearing masks for long periods of time. I don’t like the burden that places being shut down has caused the public. The conflicting rules and regulations change constantly in ways that appear contradictory in practice. Therefore, frustrations and grievances are understandable and protests are known in history as a formal way of airing them. However, in this case it doesn’t seem necessary because this isn’t due to the sole effort of one individual – in this case, Dr. Saqib Shahab. This ultimately comes down to the right of the government (working interchangeably with the health authorities) to make decisions based on a public health related emergency.

Yes one could argue that COVID is nothing but a cold or influenza which we’ve lived with for years and therefore, it’s not an emergency. However, influenza has been known to cause health emergencies of pandemic size, like the Spanish flu which is an example of a virus killing a large amount of people in ways people didn’t expect due to history with such a virus. There lies the general problem with echo chambers, the fact that they are a great way for people to feed their own personal biases.

Why? It’s much easier to look at only the information that one agrees with and that supports their claims with evidence. This can be someone finding a plethora of fear mongering information which shows people at the extremes of using gas masks to keep yourself from COVID-19, or information about how wearing a mask all day is unhealthy and can cause numerous complications that could result in death. Arguably the biggest problem is that when it comes to echo chambers and social media in particular, there is little to no middle ground. This causes a divide among individuals, but on a larger scale, citizens and those in power. Either way there’s very legitimate concerns on both sides. Examples being health care workers being worked beyond a healthy point, people struggling to find work, food, or financial security, mental health crises going up like crazy due to isolation, the economy going down, and businesses closing. Truthfully, out of all the issues that have been brought to light, wearing a mask seems like a superficial complaint compared to the rest.

Legally speaking, no investigation has brought to light that anything illegal was committed during the protest outside the Shahab residence as of yet. However, as a whole I would say, should protesting work, it changes the least amount possible for the greater good of the population. Even if you had a choice to wear a mask and you decided not to, I wouldn’t say there’s a lot that frees you from. Even if that were the case you still can’t participate in a variety of activities or see a lot of people. It doesn’t change mental health barriers, or conditions for people in long term care homes, and reduced capacity is still going to be in place. If anything, there’s a chance distancing would be further required and businesses could become further restricted.

There are different types of activity to engage in that don’t involve protesting, such as petitions or contacting the Premier or your MLA. I could see people saying such efforts are less impactful, however, protests present the threat of things escalating to illegal actions. Petitions have made an impact in the past; granted protests have as well, but for life changing reasons (e.g. Martin Luther King protests, Women Suffrage protests).

Besides that, some people are concerned about wearing a mask everyday because it’s unnatural to continually expel and inhale your own air, and some fear the building up of carbon dioxide in our bodies.  However, carbon dioxide is largely present in the earth’s atmosphere already, and mixes well with the oxygen present in an area. Do masks cause filtration issues in the sense that you’re not fully breathing in the air around you? Yes, less is going to come though something covering your face. But fabric allow for more outside air than medical grade, and even with medical grade masks they still don’t restrict air flow. Can there be reasons individuals shouldn’t wear them? Sure. Does that apply to the majority of the population? Most likely not. Even in the case of having to wear a mask put up against the risk of COVID, one is still arguably more dangerous than the other. Could anyone’s COVID response be very mild, no complications? Yes of course. Could it also result in very ugly health problems? Also yes, and there’s no real way to know which way it’ll go.

COVID does have a rather high survival rate, but it’s important to keep in mind that all that means is that you live. It doesn’t speak to your quality of life during the aftermath of having the virus. There are many side effects that can be present after having any type of illness that impact us for long periods afterwards. Honestly, I don’t feel anyone is wrong for how they feel about any of this – bottom line is, it all sucks. Nobody’s denying that, everyone’s human and nobody perfectly manages handling any type of stressor or situation, especially one that lasts this long. Nevertheless, I think there are cases where we’re fighting the wrong things and the wrong people. There should be a concise plan among the government, and those in power should be following them and providing a good example. Things should be put in place to best increase quality of life while we’re living through this, and supporting people in the areas that can’t be changed currently.

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