Masks are uncomfortable… but necessary

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Northern Star file photo

An abandoned disposable face mask lays on the sidewalk along Route 47 in downtown Elburn.

Parker Otto, Columnist

I hate wearing a mask. I hate how uncomfortable it is. I hate how it itches against my beard. I hate the way it fogs up my glasses. I hate how people can’t see the lower half of my face. But I wear it every day to save lives. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues and over 600,000 Americans have died, it’s important to know why putting up with this minor inconvenience is necessary.

While it is true that wearing a mask doesn’t prevent you from contracting COVID-19, it reduces transmission effectively and is recommended by both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Mayo Clinic. If you’re over the age of 12 and have no medical issues preventing you from doing so, getting vaccinated is the safest way to protect yourself, according to the CDC.

Out of the three main vaccines available to Americans, Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson, Moderna is 94.1% effective, Pfizer is 95% effective and Johnson & Johnson is 66.3% effective. 

Meaning that while these vaccines are effective and do great work in preventing contraction and transmission, they’re not 100% effective. Until we reach herd immunity, where enough of the population has been vaccinated that the virus is no longer deemed a substantial threat, we have to wear masks. According to the CDC, we have to have at least 70% of the population vaccinated before herd immunity has been reached, and currently, 54.9% have been vaccinated.

One of the most vulnerable groups of people to contract COVID-19 are children, and they haven’t been vaccinated because the Food and Drug Administration hasn’t approved a vaccine yet for that age group, according to the CDC. While there are clinical trials currently underway, a vaccine still isn’t available for younger Americans. 

While this may seem to not affect the students of NIU, who must be vaccinated to either live at NIU or attend classes, there is a daycare at NIU for the children of faculty, staff and students. These children are unvaccinated and vulnerable to the virus, so wearing a mask is important. Students may also have younger siblings who can’t get vaccinated yet. 

At the end of the day, wearing a mask is the most important thing we can do because it will help reduce transmission and allow in-person classes to continue.

But yet, Americans resist. Many Americans don’t want to wear masks either because they are tired of the “new normal” or they view it as an attack on our freedoms. I have seen every kind of frivolous argument against mask wearing, from comparing mask wearing to the Holocaust to saying that wearing a mask makes you a slave of the establishment. But what strikes me as ironic is that anti-maskers are also anti-vaccine. It’s an eternal state of limbo between science and delusions of invincibility. 

These people don’t care about freedom. All they care about is freedom from things they don’t like. Freedom from science. Freedom from masks. Freedom from being told what to do, especially if it might help someone else. 

Wearing a mask is absolutely necessary because we’re not at herd immunity yet, and we must keep up this practice until we have finally reached the point where this pandemic has come to a close.