Masks are very simple objects. It is usually a cloth with two stretchy bands at two ends.

You put it on your face so you can cover your mouth and nose, and it acts as a barrier to the rest of the world.

Tension around mask-wearing has risen in part because rules vary by state, county, and city, a legacy of former President Trump's decision to delegate COVID-related policy to governors and for not setting an example himself to the point of denigrating those that continued to wear masks.

While many Americans follow public health recommendations and wear masks in public to limit the spread of COVID-19, others passionately fight against them, saying they impair individual freedom.

Individual freedom?

If that is the best argument one can make then let's see how many other "individual freedom infringements" there are out there: seat belts, no smoking areas, no drinking and driving, urinating in public, running in the streets naked and so on and so forth.

Would these same people not wear a gas mask if their city was suddenly engulfed in toxic industrial chemicals? Some of these lunatics even argue that masks “throw God’s wonderful breathing system out the door.” Do not adjust your reality, this is really happening. The whole ridiculous issue has turned into a culture war.

Reopen NC, a group that opposes shutdown orders in North Carolina, said masks were “muzzles” that, along with things like mandatory temperature checks, were “ways our freedom is being eroded.” The group started a “Burn Your Mask Challenge” where people post videos on social media of themselves burning their masks and use the hashtag “#IgniteFreedom.” It is the end of common sense, a giant leap for ignorance. 

Some businesses have put up signs telling patrons they are required NOT to wear masks, while retail employees elsewhere have had to confront angry customers who refuse to wear them. But ignorance is a kind of blindness and there is no cure or vaccine for stupidity yet.

Public health experts unanimously agree that masks help slow the spread of COVID-19. The CDC and World Health Organization both released recommendations to the public to wear masks and observe social distancing. Double masking is now encouraged and suggested. There's an important sense that we're all in this together, solidarity should be the true aim, it's only as a united society that we will get out of this mess.

Though masks alone will not completely halt the spread of the virus, recent research has shown that wearing them is the most efficient way to stop its transmission. Dr. Fauci said everyone should wear a mask in public and it “should not be a political issue. It is purely a public health issue.”

And now that vaccinations are in full swing nationwide the aim is herd immunity. For the coronavirus we’re currently fighting, herd immunity will probably only be reached when the vast majority of people get a vaccine (people who’ve had the disease develop some immunity and count towards herd immunity). We have a long way to go on vaccines, but we’re making steady progress.  At the end of March, about 32% of Americans had gotten at least one dose of a vaccine (75.1% of those 65 years and older had at least one shot), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The goal is to have 80% of Americans fully vaccinated.

And for those 20-25% of the population who still refuse to wear a mask, to practice social distance, to get vaccinated, I say: “Do continue to commingle among yourselves after all we need to thin out the herd."

Pier Angelo was born in Italy, moved to England at the age of 17 and learned English at the Nelson School of English. He attended college and graduate school in Manhattan. In 2009 he founded SFGN with Norm Kent. Now he’s retired with his husband Tom and his Affenpinscher Cabbage. He still enjoys writing his column Off The Wall for SFGN.