A Collection of Replies to Anti-Mask Arguments

Arguing with people on the internet sucks. Especially with the COVID-19 pandemic, we have this weird dichotomy where people who refuse to wear masks need to be responded to, because of the health risks at stake, yet they aren’t worth the effort to engage, because they ultimately are just being selfish and ignorant.

So this is my attempt to save us some headbanging frustration on social media …

Below are a list of responses I’ve compiled to common anti-mask arguments. If you come across someone who needs to be educated on the issue, feel free to copy and reword as you see fit, no attribution necessary.

This is an ongoing compilation, so if you have your own responses or updates on the latest research, please comment below, and I will be happy to add them! Let me know if you catch any errors or have suggestions, too. I’d love for this to be a group effort to combat all the idiots out there.

Updated July 13, 2020


I don’t wear a mask because I’m not afraid of getting sick.

You misunderstand the point of wearing a mask. You don’t wear a mask so that *you* don’t get sick. You wear a mask so you don’t get *other people* sick.

The coronavirus has an obnoxious combination of 1) having a high asymptomatic rate, and 2) being deadly for those who do show symptoms. This is different from the cold or the flu, where a lot of people show symptoms, but not that many people die. With the cold or the flu, you start feeling sick, so you know to stay home, and you stop yourself from spreading your germs. With COVID-19, you could be walking around contagious and have no idea. And worse, for the small percentage of people you encounter who are susceptible to the virus, you can literally kill them.

For this reason more than anything else, it is important to wear a mask even if you personally aren’t afraid of getting sick. You’re not protecting yourself from filthy others. You’re protecting others from filthy, filthy you.

Then again, evidence is accumulating that even homemade cloth masks can offer some amount of protection to the mask wearer. So there’s that now, too.


I don’t wear a mask because I’m not sick.

You don’t know that. You *can’t* know that. You could be presymptomatic, meaning you’ve been infected and are contagious, but haven’t developed any symptoms yet. Or you could be asymptomatic, meaning you’ve been infected and are contagious, but your body doesn’t respond with the telltale symptoms.

[See previous reply for additional relevant explanation on asymptomatic spread.]

The closest you can come to knowing for sure is the Abbott ID Now test, which is used daily by the White House and gives results in 15 minutes. Unfortunately, the accuracy of that test is questionable, falling somewhere between 55% and 94.7%. (What’s the use of a test that gives a false negative almost half of the time now?)

Point being, even with the fastest test available, you can’t know for sure. And chances are, you’re not important enough of a person to be getting that test, anyway.

[This response was updated on 7/13/2020 to reflect the correct accuracy range of the Abbott test.]

Click to view Abbott Test references

Journal of Clinical Microbiology (2020): Performance of Abbott ID NOW COVID-19 rapid nucleic acid amplification test in nasopharyngeal swabs transported in viral media and dry nasal swabs, in a New York City academic institution

https://jcm.asm.org/content/early/2020/05/28/JCM.01136-20

Abbott press release regarding test accuracy

https://abbott.mediaroom.com/2020-05-21-Abbott-Releases-Interim-Clinical-Study-Data-on-ID-NOW-COVID-19-Rapid-Test-Showing-Strong-Agreement-to-Lab-Based-Molecular-PCR-Tests


Even if I wear a mask to protect others, it’s still not 100% effective.

True, if we wanted 100% effective, we’d have to wear full personal protective suits with their own air supplies. But we don’t need to shoot for 100% effective here. This isn’t like those zombie movies where if you get one drop of their blood on you — BAM — you’re now a zombie, too. With masks, every droplet of saliva or mucus that you block from getting into the air lessens the chances that you’ll spread your germs.

Another way to look at this is on a cost/benefit basis. Masks aren’t 100% effective, but they are 1) decently effective, and 2) cheap and easy to wear. As such, the benefits they provide far outweigh the costs.

Point being, just wear the damned mask. The health benefits are worth the minor inconvenience.


Medical experts keep changing their recommendations on masks, so I don’t believe them anymore.

Recommendations on mask wearing may have changed over the course of the past few months, but that’s exactly how science works. Researchers draw the best conclusions they can with the data they have available, and as they accumulate more and more data, they adjust their conclusions as needed.

And at this point, the overwhelming consensus is that mask wearing will definitely slow the spread of the virus. The caveat, of course, is that everyone needs to be willing to wear them as often as possible.


References on wearing masks

Click to view references

CDC (updated regularly): Considerations for Wearing Cloth Face Coverings

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/cloth-face-cover-guidance.html

John Hopkins Medicine: Coronavirus Face Masks & Protection FAQs

https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/coronavirus/coronavirus-face-masks-what-you-need-to-know

Medical News Today (July 3, 2020): COVID-19 and face masks: To wear or not to wear?

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/covid-19-and-face-masks-to-wear-or-not-to-wear

Harvard Medical School (updated July 2, 2020): If you’ve been exposed to the coronavirus (FAQ’s)

https://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/if-youve-been-exposed-to-the-coronavirus

University of California, San Francisco (June 26, 2020): Here’s the Science Behind How Face Masks Prevent Coronavirus

https://www.ucsf.edu/news/2020/06/417906/still-confused-about-masks-heres-science-behind-how-face-masks-prevent


There are better ways to prevent the spread of the virus than wearing a mask.

You’re right, there are other ways to prevent or at least slow the spread of the coronavirus. Among them:

  • Social distancing and quarantine
  • Herd immunity
  • Vaccination
  • Widespread testing and diligent contact tracing

Whether or not they are better is debatable, though. And either way, the problem is that none of these are attainable right now. Even social distancing has been a miserable failure, because so many people just aren’t willing to stay away from each other. So while we wait for all these other solutions to (hopefully) be available, wearing a mask is a simple and effective way to slow the spread.

Furthermore, no one is saying that we shouldn’t be working on all the other ways to slow the spread. This isn’t one of those multiple choice tests where they tell you to you choose the one best answer, but then your overthinking brain is like, “But wait, all of the choices are correct in certain contexts! How the hell do I choose just one when all of them are valid?!?”

In our attempts to fight back the coronavirus, “All of the above” is a perfectly valid option. And wearing masks is choice A), because it is far and away the easiest of the bunch.


We just need to achieve herd immunity.

Waiting for us to reach some sort of magical mystical herd immunity is ridiculous, considering 1) how many people will have to die for us to get there, and 2) we’re not even sure it’s possible, given recent studies seeming to indicate that people who’ve been infected may lose their antibodies after only a few months.

[See previous reply for additional relevant explanation regarding multiple choices.]


References on herd immunity

Click to view references

ABC News (July 7, 2020): Is COVID-19 even subject to herd immunity?

https://abcnews.go.com/US/vaccine-reach-herd-immunity-scientists/story?id=71662733

BBC News (July 7, 2020): Coronavirus: Spanish study casts doubt on herd immunity feasibility

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-53315983


If someone is immunocompromised, they should just stay home. I shouldn’t have to wear a mask to protect someone who shouldn’t be out, anyway.

First off, medical experts are still trying to figure out why COVID-19 affects some people so adversely. People who otherwise seemed perfectly healthy have been absolutely destroyed by the virus. So no, you can’t just expect people to know they’re susceptible, because there is literally no way to know that for sure.

Either way, you are being unbelievably selfish and also stupidly shortsighted. You don’t know why someone may need to venture out of the house. People need to buy food, don’t they? Or what if they have to get to the store to make an emergency purchase? Just because you can’t put up with a minor inconvenience, other people need to stop leading their own lives? That’s not how a functioning society works.


Well, I’m not gonna coddle other people just because they would feel safer if I wore a mask.

Even if masks aren’t as effective as we want them to be, there is nothing wrong with offering others peace of mind, especially for something as simple as wearing a mask. It’s compassionate and empathetic, and the world always needs more of that. Barring a medical condition, wearing a mask barely even counts as a personal sacrifice.

Either way, you really don’t get to decide what constitutes compassion versus coddling, and you definitely don’t get to decide what constitutes wanton endangerment versus tolerable safety risk for others. Stop being so self-centered, self-righteousness, and really, self-everything, and think about others for a minute, will ya?


The coronavirus is way overblown because its death rate is very low

First off, we still don’t know what the actual death rate is. As of mid-July, the United States has had 3.39 million confirmed cases, with 137,000 deaths. That’s about 4%, but of course doesn’t account for asymptomatic or minor cases that never got tested. So yes, the death/infection rate can be lower.

Still … 137,000 deaths. In four months. Regardless of the death rate that represents, there is nothing overblown about 137,00 deaths. By any definition of the word, the coronavirus is either the Goldilocks amount of blown or even underblown.

Considering just the number of deaths also fails to account for the massive numbers of people who have recovered, but suffer long-term debilitating health complications. Just because you don’t die doesn’t mean it doesn’t mess you up for a long, long time. Maybe even the rest of your life.

Again, this is not something to be brushed aside.


References: long-term health effects of COVID-19

Click to view references

Salt Lake Tribune (July 12, 2020): What we know about the long term consequences of getting COVID-19

https://www.sltrib.com/news/2020/07/12/what-we-know-about-long/

The Hill (July 10, 2020): ‘Mild’ cases of coronavirus may have serious long-term and recurring effects

https://thehill.com/changing-america/well-being/prevention-cures/506752-mild-cases-of-coronavirus-may-not-be-as-mild-as

BBC (June 22, 2020): How Covid-19 can damage the brain

https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20200622-the-long-term-effects-of-covid-19-infection

Healthline (June 22, 2020): Lifelong Lung Damage: The Serious COVID-19 Complication That Can Hit People in Their 20s

https://www.healthline.com/health-news/lifelong-lung-damage-the-serious-covid-19-complication-that-can-hit-people-in-their-20s


I have a right to choose not to wear a mask. You can’t infringe on my personal freedom.

You have a constitutional right to personal freedom, but that right does not extend to endangering the lives of others. This is why, for instance, you have the right to drink alcohol, but not one to drink and drive. As a mountain of accumulating evidence continues to show, wearing a mask can substantially slow the spread of the coronavirus. But in order for it to be effective, everyone has to be willing to opt in.

By choosing not to wear a mask, you are in fact endangering others. As such, rights or personal freedom are not valid arguments against wearing masks.


I won’t just roll over and do the government’s bidding. I’m no sheep.

Being community-minded and considerate of others is not being sheep. If anything, latching on to the ignorant stubbornness of the president you idolize (who, by the way, was spotted wearing a mask as of July 11) makes you far more of a sheep than everyone else who is willing to accept the consensus of the scientific and medical community.

Individualism can sometimes be helpful when it comes to things like entrepreneurship and innovation. But when it comes to public health, we simply need to be community-minded, because when dealing with a pandemic like this one, all of us pitching in is how we’re going to help all of ourselves.

For some cases in point, Taiwan, Korea, and Japan are geographically close to China, and for all intents and purposes, they should’ve gotten slammed by the coronavirus. Yet, they’re doing fine now. Wanna known why? It’s because they had pandemic plans in place, people were willing to embrace them, and working together as a society, they were able to slap that virus right back.

There’s no reason we can’t do the same. We just have to be willing to be considerate of and cooperate with each other.


Making us cover our faces is the first step towards government control of our lives.

This is called a slippery slope fallacy, and the argument has zero merit. Local and state governments are now mandating masks not because they’re trying to control you, but because people were — and still are — being total asses about it. It would be awesome if the government could merely suggest wearing masks, and people would be all, “Oh yeah, good idea for playing it safe. I’m on board!”

But no, that’s not how entitled Americans and their toxic individualism operate. Instead of thinking of the greater good and how wearing a mask helps others, all people can think about is how much of an inconvenience it is. And seriously, it’s not much of an inconvenience.

Due to the severity of the pandemic and the fact that so many people aren’t taking it seriously, this is a clear case of the government needing to step in and lay down some mandates. Because now, personal choice (especially one as stupidly inconsequential as wearing a mask) is superseded by our need as a society to remain healthy.


You still haven’t answered why I should give up my personal freedom.

I totally have. You just refuse to listen. So I’m just gonna resort to this:


References: government policies and cooperation

Click to view references

The Conversation (June 29, 2020): What coronavirus success of Taiwan and Iceland has in common

https://theconversation.com/what-coronavirus-success-of-taiwan-and-iceland-has-in-common-140455

John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health (April 24, 2020): Inside Taiwan’s Response to COVID-19

https://www.jhsph.edu/covid-19/news-and-events/events/april-24.html


Okay, fine. I’ll wear a mask … for now. So how long are we supposed to do this?

I have no idea, and anyone who thinks they know is lying. Personally, my hope is that once we 1) figure out why some people are affected so adversely, 2) have widespread testing, and 3) potentially develop a vaccine, we’ll be able to track it well enough so that people will know with some amount of confidence when they don’t have it, and people identified as susceptible can opt for the vaccine. That’s my bestest and most edumacated guess. But again, even the experts can’t say for sure at this point.

For what it’s worth, wearing masks in public has been a cultural norm in many Asian countries for decades now. It’s seen as a courtesy to others. Sometimes when a person isn’t even feeling sick, they may wear a mask just as a precaution. Point being, it may feel inconvenient in the short term, but it can be a sustainable long-term practice. Besides, this kind of pushback is exactly what happened when seat belts were introduced, and those things are universal now.

Ultimately, wearing masks allow us to reclaim some of the life we used to be able to lead. No, masks are not the only solution, nor are they the perfect solution. But, they are far better than the alternative, which … well, is kind of where we are right now.

4 thoughts on “A Collection of Replies to Anti-Mask Arguments

  1. I’ve been banging my head against the wall trying to talk people down from the conspiracy theory junk. It’s almost futile, but I try to keep hope that maybe someone will read a tiny bit. Here’s one explanation:
    Try to think of it in terms of smoking. When you smoke, it lingers in the air just like moisture particles when you exhale, cough, talk, sing, sneeze or huff. The goal is to reduce the particles in the air. You don’t smoke in stores and indoor places because it all accumulates. Like smoke, if you walk behind someone who is smoking or pass them, you get smoke particles all over, even to the point that it’s in your hair and clothes. Same thing happens with covid. So If I wear my mask, I’m protecting YOU from me. And just staying home if you’re sick won’t work because many will be contagious and never show symptoms – If you weren’t sick but recently lost your sense of smell and taste it’s likely because you had/have covid as that’s an important symptom.

    Like

  2. So what about those of us that have severe lung issue I personally had a chemical burn incident and still have bad scarring in my lungs. I also have severe claustrophobia as well as depression so telling me to stay inside is not helping the depression not saying I dont wear a mask when I go out in public to shop or go thru a drive thru but I cant wear one for prolonged periods of time even more than 15 minutes I’m hyperventilating and becoming dizzy so I cant return to work which is also very depressing my 14 year old has the same issues and has already been put on a 72 hour psych hold for trying to commit suicide

    Like

    • Get a face shield Christina. Anything that catches breath droplets before they spray out into the wider world will help.

      Like

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