Hitting a Nerve

Will we be wearing masks years from now?


Yesterday during an office visit I was adjusting my mask when a patient suddenly said, “What if this is the new normal? What if we still have to wear masks years from now?”

Dr. Allan M. Block, a neurologist is Scottsdale, Ariz.

Dr. Allan M. Block

An interesting thought. That might even be the case. I mean, the COVID-19 pandemic definitely has changed our world. On the other hand, there are far worse things to have to do.

Masks, to some extent, have already become a part of our society, I see more people out and about with them than without. Like lunchboxes, they’ve transitioned from utilitarian to fashion statements. I see Darth Vader, Batman, Hello Kitty, Pokemon, and many other characters on them.

Humans have, after all, adapted to wearing all kinds of things. At some point our ancestors discovered they could walk around outside more comfortably with a covering on their feet. Then they discovered that socks prevent chafing. Now shoes and socks are worn worldwide, available for many different purposes in varied colors, styles, and cultures.

Why should masks be any different? Just because they’re new doesn’t mean they’re bad.

Obviously, I’m exaggerating. I don’t want to wear a mask full time, either. They’re hot and uncomfortable and, for people with certain respiratory issues, impossible. I live in Phoenix and I definitely don’t want to go through one of our summers wearing a face mask.

But at the same time, while masks are no guarantee against viral spread, they certainly help reduce it. This makes me wonder when we’ll start to phase them out. The virus isn’t going anywhere, so the breaking point will be when there’s either an effective vaccine administered to most of the population, or enough people have had the virus that herd immunity takes effect.

Until then, I have no problem with wearing a mask and asking patients who can to please do so when they come in. I see a lot of people who are elderly and/or immune suppressed. I don’t want them to get sick. Or me. Or my family.

If wearing a mask through the Phoenix summer is a sacrifice that will lead to better health for all, it’s not a big one in the grand scheme of things.

Dr. Block has a solo neurology practice in Scottsdale, Ariz. He has no relevant disclosures.

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