It is hard to wear face masks. The reason has nothing to do with discomfort or safety. It has to do with perception.
We tend to judge things, situations and people from the signals we get seeking to interpret the message behind the signals. Face Masks give more than signals, they make a statement.
A few years ago, if you wore a face mask at work, you were either a surgeon or a city council worker dusting the roads. It is in China that we first saw people wearing masks as a necessity to protect themselves from air pollution but that didn’t raise much alarm because it could be relatable to the intense industrialization.
I remember when the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in Kenya. People first hoarded the masks and other essentials such as sanitizers making them scarce and expensive. The hoarding had the unfortunate side effect of creating a sense of false security because many of the people who were using them had no clue how to use them properly, causing them to be worse off than if they hadn’t had them at all. Most of the masks were not COVID-19 approved hence less effective and the basic requirements of use ignored. I remember seeing truck drivers and many other people with masks that were once white now in brown shades, dirty and overused pausing a bigger risk than when without.
Recently, I heard on radio advocacy of homemade or locally produced masks to help substitute the surgical and other COVID-19 approved masks due to scarcity plus other benefits such as saving on costs since the cloth ‘kitenge‘ mask can be washed and reused helping in the fight against corona more effectively.
Currently, with more people wearing masks and government advising people to have masks on. Those not wearing are becoming worried with a desire to protect themselves and those with the virus can protect others by wearing masks. At this stage, the masks have become a necessity and the initial signals and perceptions towards them changed. Just like sanitizers, they are now an essential, you cannot do without them within your day, they are as precious as drinking water is. Our survival of the pandemic to some level is dependent on the masks. Despite the discomfort of having a mask on your face, some slight difficulty in normal breathing due to the mask and the feeling of being less in control because of the “muzzle“, let us all be diligent and use the masks for our good, effectively. Do you have your mask on? What type of mask is it?