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What to Say If People Ask Why You're Still Wearing a Mask

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I Wear Because I Care

Currently, the CDC allows maskless activities for vaccinated individuals. However, I am of the camp that masks are an essential tool for curbing respiratory infection transmission, so I’ll be wearing one when interacting closely with anyone outside my vaccinated family pod. Masks are useful and effective not only in decreasing transmission of respiratory illnesses, but they can also help individuals with asthma (by filtering triggering scents or fumes) and seasonal allergies (by filtering pollen).

Bottom line: We don’t know why any person is wearing a mask, and before COVID, it just wasn’t on the minds of the general American public.

I will be continuing to wear a mask in mixed settings and within six feet of others because we are only halfway to the herd immunity mark, as of this week. I recommend having a script ready for you and your family so that when awkward confrontations about masks arise, you aren’t taken by surprise. As a member of a high-risk family, I’ve worn masks during cold season for decades. So have many cancer patients, immunosuppressed individuals, diabetic children, and many, many others for a myriad of reasons you can’t physically see, so it’s important to approach all interactions with kindness.

For example, if a family member insinuates you are being “silly” or “paranoid” for wearing a mask, you can respond with either a factual response based on current data or a personal one. Personal reasons are much more likely to connect with others because we tend to tune out all the statistics after a while. Keep in mind, these scripts are for adults and older teenagers; younger children don’t need to be included or exposed to high emotion conversations around the pandemic unless unavoidable.

Example of a factual response:

“We are choosing to continue to wear masks in mixed company because herd immunity is achieved when 70 percent of the general population is covered and we’re just not there yet.”

Example of a personal response:

“We are choosing to continue to wear masks in mixed company because I have cancer.”

Factual responses are tricky because of that data fatigue. Personal responses are tricky because they require to you expose private information about yourself or your family. I use a combination approach. I start with a factual response because it is easy to memorize and takes all emotion out of the equation. I also prefer factual responses around children, because when we go to personal reasons in public settings, it tends to escalate that awkwardness. If an adult continues to push me, I have no problem sharing a personal reason as a medical provider, but you might not feel the same and that’s OK.

But what about the littles? What can you teach your little ones to say? Keep it simple, keep it kind:

“I wear a mask because I care about strangers.”

We are all doing the best we can, and the simple act of continuing to wear a mask in mixed company and close quarters really isn’t about you — it’s about caring for your community.

Originally published: May 31, 2021
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