Opinion: I wore a face mask around Burnaby. It got weird

Chris Campbell

One thing I’ve noticed people arguing about on social media (yes, I know, it’s a long list) is if “healthy” people should be wearing face masks.

Now the word “healthy” is unclear because you can have COVID-19 and not show any symptoms. This makes the advice from B.C. health officials problematic because for weeks they’ve been saying wearing a mask doesn’t help. They say that, if anything, wearing a face mask gives a false sense of confidence and could lead people to touch their face even more than normal.

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Health officials have advised that someone who has symptoms of being sick wear a mask.

I feel healthy, but was given a few masks by a friend. I have been working from home for a couple of weeks, but on Tuesday had to go into the office due to some technical issues involving production of the print edition of the NOW.

Our office is basically empty right now. There’s just a handful of staff and they all work spread out as we practise social distancing.

As I got ready for work, I looked at the basic loop face mask sitting on my desk and decided to wear it for the day.

It got weird.

The first thing I noticed was how uncomfortable it was wearing a mask for an entire day. It traps in your hot breath and makes your face sweat. It also starts to chafe on the skin after just a few hours.

I mention this because I want people to think about all of the front-line health workers that are wearing masks for 8 to 12 hours a day. Some of these masks are the level-three devices that grip hard to your face. I have seen photos of nurses and doctors with visible wounds on their faces from wearing masks day after day after day.

It’s a terrible thing to imagine. These workers around the world are putting themselves at great risk from getting the virus, and they are suffering just from the masks.

Putting on a mask for a day was just another reminder of their incredible sacrifice.

So there’s that.

Another thing I noticed was how people reacted when they see you wearing a mask on the street or in the grocery store. (I needed to stop for some food.)

face mask
Wearing this simple loop face mask was a reminder about what medical professionals are going through with COVID-19. CHRIS CAMPBELL PHOTO

People were definitely keeping a wider berth from me than they did the previous few days.

One person literally looked at me and turned around and went to another till at the store. I could also see the looks on people’s faces visibly change as I walked by.

Some were vocal about it. A few (white) dudes said, “Those masks don’t work.”

One guy also said, “Maybe you should be at home.”

Funny, nobody has said anything in the previous few days if I’ve been in the grocery store or walking from my car into my apartment.

A total of four people actually said something. (As a side note, non-white people are being treated really bad while wearing masks. The pandemic doesn't give you an excuse to be racist.)

Look, I don’t know if the mask made me any safer than not wearing one, but it did give me a more positive feeling about going outside. I’ve been avoiding leaving the house as much as possible and I dreaded having to go into the office for a few hours. I wanted to burn my clothes when I got home.

Somehow, however, the mask made it feel a little better, even though logic was telling me it wasn’t helping.

I definitely think people should not be buying or hoarding masks. Leave the supply for the professionals.

Follow Chris Campbell on Twitter @shinebox44.




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