FACE MASKS - BLESSING OR CURSE?
A (somewhat) lighthearted look at a very contentious issue and why tennis professionals
may not want to toss that mask too quickly.
by Rich Neher
How it all started
Remember over a year ago, when rumors started that we are in for a bad strain of a dangerous flu that was believed to have come from Wuhan in China and everyone was trumpeting that washing your hands for 20 seconds would help you avoid infection and effectively prevent the spread and everyone thought this would be over in 4 weeks max?
Well, little did we know that this disease would nonetheless spread rapidly, cause millions of deaths all over the world, and gave doctors the power to dictate the shutting down of entire economies.
On March 6th I thought I’d outsmart you all and bought a case of Kleenex wet wipes, quite sure this would get me over the virus.
However, soon after we learned how dangerous that virus is, primarily for the older population and especially for people with underlying health conditions, we were told to wear face masks.
I remember I bought my first cloth masks hand-made from a neighbor on NEXT DOOR for $15 a pair on April 7. Still have those lying around somewhere.
It wasn’t until July/August that I got hold of even more fashionable masks, black with cute red hearts on them. Then I bought nice masks from Lacoste and my current favorites from American Eagle. (See pic. Our dog Max has gotten used to the look by now. Why? Because dogs love you unconditionally, no matter what you wear!)
While vaccines have become widely available for us old farts and there are signs of economic recovery, most of us are still wearing face masks and I was trying to figure out whether it was a good decision to begin with or if someone had put the proverbial wool over our heads (or faces).
We learned from the CDC website: “Masks are an additional step to help prevent people from getting and spreading COVID-19. They provide a barrier that keeps respiratory droplets from spreading. Wear a mask and take everyday preventive actions in public settings.”
Okay, so far so good. And I liked it even more when I saw others who were communicating with me, that also wore them. Playing tennis with the masks on proved to be challenging but at facilities where tennis was allowed we were able to take them off while playing on the court.
Japan has long demonstrated the effectiveness of face masks
The following data was extracted from the current Coronavirus Update on Worldometer.
As of March 20th, we had about 30.5 million cases in the U.S.A., a country of 332 million people, with 555,000 reported deaths. The number crunchers tell us that’s 91,680 cases and 1,669 deaths per 1M people.
At the same time, Japan, a country with a population of 126 million (a little more than a third the size of the U.S.A.) had had 454,158 cases and 8,790 deaths. That’s 3,599 cases and 563 deaths per 1M people.
You can now say we tested many more people here (388 million or 1,168,909 per 1M people) than in Japan (9.2 million or 73,439 per 1M people). However, you can also point at the fact that Japanese people are used to wearing masks since before the Spanish flu in 1918.
Julian Ryall writes in DW “How Japan's mask culture may have saved lives during coronavirus”
As a consequence, Japanese did not bat an eyelid when medical experts stated in the early weeks of the pandemic that wearing a mask would at least reduce the risk of contracting the coronavirus.
"The Spanish flu pandemic of 1918 was when people really realized the importance of wearing a mask, and ever since then, we have just accepted it as a sensible precaution to take," Yoko Tsukamoto, a professor of infection control at the Health Sciences University of Hokkaido, told DW.
"Face masks have now reached the point where covering one's face is part of our culture and not something that anyone questions," she said.
"Many foreigners who visited Japan before the pandemic believed that people were wearing masks to protect themselves from the people around them," she added.
"That is true to a certain extent, but it was far more out of consideration of the people around them on the train or bus, especially if they had a cold or something similar," she said. "We see it as the considerate, polite thing to do."
Let that sink in, folks. They see this as a considerate, polite thing to do. Amazing, isn’t it?
My personal medical history
I began looking at the Pros and Cons of wearing face masks in regards to my own health. Believe it, or not, I found that masks are a blessing for me, and here is why.
Ever since I made the unfortunate decision to single-handedly paint the wrap-around porch of a house I owned in Germany in the 80ies, breathing in all those fumes for hours without protection, I’ve had respiratory problems. For almost all of my adult life, the symptoms of those problems were severe colds that often resulted in Bronchitis, sometimes pneumonia. Two to three light and 3-4 severe colds per year was something I endured year after year for decades. Whatever method was out there to catch a cold, I found it and it got into my system. I was always hoping and praying it wouldn’t find its way into my bronchial tubes.
Much to my surprise, besides a slight cold at the beginning of the year and pre-COVID, I hadn’t had any problems in all of 2020. That has never happened before. And I’d noticed it very soon after COVID started. My assumption that I was related to my wearing a face mask in public seemed far-fetched in the middle of 2020 but when the year came to an end and I was free of any cold symptoms, it dawned on me: the mask may have been my blessing. The improved hand hygiene was probably also a factor in my going free of colds for an entire year. And how about the fact that wearing my mask effectively prevented me from touching my face, lips, nose endless times? Hands that had touched any number of surfaces and people just seconds before. Get the picture?
Beautiful handmade mask by designer Adeline Arjad Cook from her I LOVE MY DOUBLES PARTNER collection.
A nice example from a collection of sports masks by Under Armor.
We have read that the 2020 flu season was almost non-existent. Wait. What? No flu deaths in 2020? Could it be that wearing face masks made all the difference for a disease that year after year kills tens of thousands of people, to become irrelevant?
What are the cons of wearing a face mask?
As so often in life, it depends on whom you ask. The loudest voices came from two sides. First, the people wiggling their fingers because the mask is taking some of their freedoms away. Which ones is never quite clear to me. Second, there are the doctors. It gives me relatively little pleasure to mention that some doctors who treat diseases the masks seem to prevent may not be happy right now. Let’s leave it at that. I have too much respect for medical doctors to dive into that subject much deeper.
Yes, wearing a face mask is inconvenient and may even look stupid on some people. (no, not on you and me. On the others!) And then there are people who don’t care. Or the ones that take it really seriously. Some of them with masks from just under their eyes down to their chest.
There are many pros for wearing that dreaded mask in certain instances
Below I’ve compiled a list of all the pros of wearing a face mask, even after COVID-19 had gone away for good. And I’m not talking about celebrities who have now a great chance to go shopping without anyone recognizing them. I was told the celebrity sightings in the Los Angeles area have gone down dramatically.
Apart from my finding about the mask preventing all of my regular colds and bronchitis symptoms, here are more pros:
How to not wear face masks
Restaurant wait staff
I’ve been saying that forever and most certainly pre-COVID. Waiters and waitresses are like actors: the most chatty people on the planet. And I know because I had been a waiter and an actor in my life! Every waiter and every waitress has a story to tell, all of them want to please their customers. Whether they are rushing to you with your food on a tray or loading up that tray at the kitchen station, they talk and talk and talk. Which means they most certainly and unwillingly send a spray of their saliva down to your food. Who knows how many millions of people had been infected with all sorts of nasty symptoms by chatty wait staff?
My suggestion: Make wearing masks by restaurant wait staff mandatory! We’ll all benefit!
Restaurant kitchen staff
Yep, what I said about wait staff also applies to chefs and sous-chefs. They also talk a lot bent over your food. And the spraying goes on all the time.
My suggestion: Make wearing masks by restaurant kitchen staff mandatory! Again, we’ll all benefit!
Bad breath? No problem!
Forgot to brush your teeth in the morning? Had too many onions in your salsa? How about those yummy garlic mashed potatoes? No worries, friend, the mask will effectively mask your breath and you can chat away like there’s no tomorrow. (Disclaimer: I’m not suggesting you should mask your alcohol breath while driving after that big party. The cops still see how you drive and you will remove your mask for the breathalyzer test, believe me!)
If you have bad breath, do us all a favor and wear a frigging mask!
No time to shave?
Well, what can I say? There are times when men just don’t feel like shaving in the morning. Right? However, do this 3 days in a row and you may look like Harvey Weinstein on a good day.
Take note, the mask will give you confidence and you may think you look like George Clooney who seems to never have a bad shave day.
Bad teeth, pimples, cold sores?
No worries, Seth. Calm down, Ashley. ‘Puttin’ on the Mask’ is the new hipster song and you know how to deal with all that now.
Put on that pretty mask and your self-esteem will be shooting through the roof and no one will avoid looking into your baby blue eyes.
Notice I didn’t suggest you can fool the cameras when holding up the neighborhood Wells Fargo Bank? Nope. Crime doesn’t pay. Did you not know that?
But how about a business idea or a stock tip, free of charge? With lots of people continuing to use the face mask, fashion brands looking at emphasizing the eyes, brows, forehead, ears, and hair will probably do very well. Their stocks may explode very soon. Get in on the game!
Do face masks work for tennis professionals?
You are probably sick and tired of it, aren’t you? Can’t wait to toss that ugly thing faster than Novak Djokovic throws a racquet?
However, if you’re like me prone to get your annual cold(s) faster than you can say, “Dr. Fauci to the rescue” then consider keeping that piece of cloth on your face for a while. At least during the winter months when cold infections are at a peak. It may help you stay healthier all year round. Who knows?
But how about some more advantages for tennis professionals? Remember those cold winter/spring mornings where you're standing on the court feezing your tush off? Well, at least your face could be a little warmer, couldn't it?
And how about those hot summer days when you have to protect your lips from too much sun? Well, do I have to say it?
Some more food for thought
What if I’m on to something with my conclusion about the mask effectively helping with colds and touches of flu?
What if the medical world really dislikes that hypothesis?
Let that sink in, folks. Hypothetically, as soon as you hear the CDC/AMA/FDA saying that masks are not as effective as they thought they would be and as soon as you hear Big Pharma totally agree with that statement, you know what’s going on. The masks have cut into their seasonal business.
Then it’s time to run for the hills because they may be coming after you to rip that mask off for good. Far fetched? Maybe. Let’s revisit in 6 months.
Oh, and Max? Well, he's a big boy. Sometimes his poop stinks worse than a dinosaur with diarrhea. It's a little more bearable for me out for a potty walk in the morning.
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