Coronavirus face mask protection has been one of the contentious topics in the United States since the pandemic started. Despite America's COVID-19 case numbers skyrocketing over the last few months, people are still debating about the efficacy of cloth masks, neck gaiters, and even N95 respirator masks.
Fortunately, new findings could potentially put an end to this argument. A recent survey that "the vast majority of Americans recognize the value of masks in public spaces, whatever their political allegiances."
The Numbers Don't Lie
A survey conducted by visual branding company Signs.com asked 1,000 individuals across America about their opinions on face mask usage. The overwhelming majority of those polled believe that face masks should be worn in public areas during the COVID-19 health crisis. Democrats, Republicans, and Independents were all in favor of implementing the safety measure.
Breaking the statistics down, 83.1% of survey participants said that masks should always be worn in public places. 14.8% believe that they should only be worn in certain circumstances. And just 2% of respondents stated that they think masks should never be worn in public places.
Digging deeper into the numbers yields an overwhelming sentiment in favor of face masks, regardless of political affiliation. Of the survey participants who identified as Democrats, 88.4% believe in the widespread usage of face masks. Similarly, 82.1% of those who identified as Republicans and 72.6% of people who identified as Independents agreed. These figures suggest that the topic of face masks may not be as divisive in terms of partisan lines as many experts assumed.
"The data overwhelmingly indicates that Americans want to keep themselves and others safe," says Signs.com President Nelson James.
Who Should Decide Mask Usage?
The majority of poll respondents also had strong opinions on what kind of face masks should be worn. Essentially, most participants agreed that face coverings that resembled personal protective equipment (PPE) such as N-95 masks were the best options. This does not mean to say that those polled believed everyone should wear N95 masks; rather, they want people to use face mask options that are capable of blocking tiny aerosolized particles.
The survey also elucidated that 15% of respondents support mask requirement exemptions for people with qualifying medical conditions. While most physicians believe that masks rarely exacerbate existing health issues, they could be difficult for individuals with developmental or psychiatric disorders to wear for long periods of time.
So, who should decide widespread mask usage? According to the survey, most Americans (78% of Democrats and 69% of Republicans) believe the onus falls on the federal government. More specifically, the president should be the one to make mask-wearing mandatory. And who should enforce this? Unsurprisingly, survey respondents overwhelmingly stated that the responsibility falls on law enforcement. It's worth noting that Independents were less in favor of national mask regulations and preferred state governments to control this factor.
America Is In Dire Straits
The total number of COVID-19 cases around the world recently surpassed 54.5 million. In the U.S., this tally exceeded 11 million after adding 1 million new infections in only six days. As of this writing, 50 states and territories are witnessing rising numbers of coronavirus cases with virtually no signs of slowing down.
Unfortunately, the U.S. is leading the world in both case numbers and in deaths. The latter recently reached 246,224 according to data from Johns Hopkins University. For both metrics, America makes up approximately a fifth of the global count.
As if things in the U.S. didn't sound bad enough, the country is currently averaging more than 150,000 new cases per day in the last week. This is a steep increase of 81% from the average only two weeks ago.
"We are on the verge of a humanitarian catastrophe and approaching potentially 400,000 Americans who could perish by the early part of next year," explains Dr. Peter Hotez, a professor of pediatrics and molecular virology and microbiology at Baylor College of Medicine and dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine. According to Hotez, the Institute for Health Metrics estimates that 2,000 to 2,5000 Americans could be dying every single day by January. That would make COVID-19 the leading cause of daily death in the U.S.
Do What's Right — Wear Your Face Mask
With COVID-19 cases soaring in the U.S., the survey unsurprisingly found that 83% of respondents believe that failure to wear a face mask should come with a penalty. In fact, 15% of those polled said it should be a crime. Most survey participants agreed that the penalty should be a fine or around $225. Many municipalities have already implemented such financial penalties in that range or larger.
The authors of the survey hope that their findings help to empower individuals and encourage more usage of face masks: "While asking others to wear masks may not feel entirely comfortable, our results suggest that the vast majority of Americans will support an individual’s decision to do so."
There's no doubt that Americans are living through tough times right now. But the results of this survey give us hope that the majority of us know the right path to take regarding face mask usage. With that said, we can't stress it enough: Please wear a face mask whenever you go out in public. If not for you, then do it for your loved ones, friends, and the strangers all around you. We may be separated due to social distancing right now, but if we stand together on this issue, we can get through this pandemic.
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