The War on Masks

It's also a war on health and human rights.

The War on Masks
Dr. Lucky Tran

It's already happening.

When the state of North Carolina first proposed a mask ban this year, advocates from across the country warned lawmakers that it would embolden anti-maskers and lead to a surge in harassment and assault. Days after it passed, a woman with stage 4 cancer was assaulted by a man for wearing a mask. He told her wearing a mask was illegal. When she tried to explain her medical condition, he cussed her out and then started coughing on her.

He told her he hoped she died.

At a Chicago airport, an infectious disease expert was denied service at a restaurant for trying to enter with a mask. When she asked why, the staff simply repeated, "It's the policy."

She was told to leave.

There's one point continually missed by mainstream coverage of the North Carolina mask ban. Politicians keep saying nothing has changed, but they're lying. Under the new law, anyone who considers themselves an "occupant of public property" can demand someone remove their mask for identification. In the bill's exact words, anyone wearing a mask for health reasons "shall remove the mask upon request by a law enforcement officer or temporarily remove the mask upon request by the owner or occupant of public or private property where the wearer is present to allow for identification of the wearer."

This intentionally vague language allows virtually anyone to take it upon themselves to "request" someone "temporarily" remove their mask for identification. If they don't, they're breaking the law and they can be arrested, even charged with a felony. Maybe that sounds like a compromise to someone who doesn't understand viral transmission.

It's not a compromise at all.

Peak viral exposure happens within five seconds of a personal encounter. In other words, there's no point during a conversation when you're safe. You're in danger the instant someone opens their mouth and starts talking. That's why anyone who cares about their health wants to keep their mask on. It has nothing to do with hiding their identity. Making someone remove their mask, even for a few seconds, is sentencing them to chronic illness or death.

There's zero evidence that mask bans will reduce crime or violence. According to science, sunglasses do a better job of concealing your identity than an N95 respirator. Even our own intelligence agencies have said that wearing a mask doesn't impede facial recognition software.

So a mask ban does nothing but intimidate protestors, at the expense of threatening the rest of us and creating an atmosphere of hostility and fear around masking. Nobody deserves to be harassed and assaulted just for wearing a mask, but that's what these lawmakers have inflicted on us.

They have already killed people.

They just don't know it yet.

Mask bans are starting to proliferate. In addition to North Carolina, New York has begun considering a similar mask ban. Chicago and LA are also trying to ban masks now. It's shameful that liberals, progressives, and Democrats in general are often the ones proposing and advocating for these bans, and they're doing it with little or no concern for who it impacts.

Those of us who want or need to wear a respirator for health reasons are nothing but an afterthought in these bills.

They don't care what happens to us.

That's the worst part.

Mask discrimination has intensified as a direct result of these thoughtless bills. People are being harassed, assaulted, and denied service even when they're clearly wearing medical masks for health reasons. They're being persecuted at work, in healthcare settings, and even losing their jobs.

Last year, there was a concerted effort among politicians and corporate media to convey the notion that masks "didn't work," even though they do. Public officials largely turned a blind eye as anti-mask policies began to spread among commercial chains, and even some schools started banning masks.

Now, here we are.

I've started a survey to collect information on these disturbing trends. With 80 responses so far, here's a look:

More than half of people who mask say they've been harassed or physically threatened in public for wearing a mask. Strangers call them names, yell at them, and pretend to cough and sneeze on them.

More than half report negative comments from friends, and two-thirds report family members complaining about their masks. More than half also report receiving negative comments and complaints from healthcare workers, with nearly 40 percent saying a healthcare worker has pressured them to take off their mask. Roughly 65 percent say friends and family have pressured them to take their masks off. Nearly 14 percent of people have already been denied service at stores. Although it's rare, some people report being told to choose between their jobs and wearing a mask, so they quit.

As the survey already shows, more than half of us who wear masks endure frequent complaints from friends, family, and even healthcare workers about our masks, and we're already constantly pressured to take them off, for the sake of "getting back to normal." We're asked to choose between our health and our social lives, and even our jobs.

This kind of harassment and discrimination was happening before cities and states started stoking fears about masked criminals and conditioning the public to associate masks with crime and moral vice. Even if there was a legitimate reason for banning masks at protests, the politicians and public figures pushing these bans are doing so in the most reckless, careless way possible, and it's punishing people who've done nothing wrong.

Four years ago, liberals accused conservatives of politicizing masks. Now liberals are doing it, to the very people who elected them. Even worse, they're doing it as a range of other diseases, including Covid and now bird flu, make it more important than ever to wear a good medical mask.

It's truly appalling that those who often talk about social justice and equality are now describing masks as a political liability. It's the kind of blatant hypocrisy that goes down in history textbooks. Decades from now, students will ask what on earth our political leaders were thinking. This is assuming we have a future with history books. At this point, who knows?

Masking for your health is a human right. It doesn't matter what you're doing or where you're doing it. It doesn't conceal your identity.

It harms no one.

Please consider completing this survey if you want to help raise awareness about mask discrimination. I'll share a detailed report soon.

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