MATTHEWS: Mask do’s and don’ts in the age of coronavirus

In this Sunday, May 10, 2020 file photo, Mary Faye Cochran, 86, sings "You Are My Sunshine" over the phone to her son Stacey Smith through a window for a Mother's Day celebration at Provident Village at Creekside assisted living facility in Smyrna, Ga. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

There’s been a lot — and I mean a lot — of mixed messaging coming from health officials, politicians (including Gov. Roy Cooper), the World Health Organization and the media over the last few months when it comes to wearing masks in the age of coronavirus.

We’ve been told they don’t help much in stopping transmission of the virus. Then we’ve been told they do help stop it. We’ve been told they don’t keep us safer, and then we’ve been told they do.

So what should a person unsure of whether to wear a mask do to clear up any confusion?

Consult your primary care physician’s office or the local urgent care. Chances are, both will tell you at this point to wear a mask if you go out in public. That seems to be where everyone is right now, including all of the above-mentioned officials who were previously sending mixed messages.

With that being said, I can tell you based on my personal and very painful experience with the H1N1 virus in 2009, my preference is to wear a mask, whether it’s to go shopping for essentials or to visit loved ones and friends.

For as long as I can remember, going to the doctor’s office for a check-up or to the hospital to visit someone in the fall and winter months usually meant being asked to wear a mask as a precautionary measure because of the typical cold/flu outbreaks we see during those months every year. I never had an issue with the signs telling me to wear a mask. In fact, they made me feel safer.

But more than making me “feel” safer, I believe masks kept my family from catching the H1N1 virus I had. After I was diagnosed with it, my parents didn’t give me any other option but to stay with them so they could help care for me as I fought the virus.

Mom stocked up on chicken soup, Lysol spray, anti-bacterial wipes, and masks. The only time I ever left my bedroom was to go to the bathroom or to grab a bottled water late at night when I was having a coughing fit and everyone else was in the bed. Anytime I did leave the room, I wore a mask. Anytime my mom visited my room to drop off breakfast, lunch, dinner, or just to check on me, she wore a mask.

Fortunately, I recovered from the virus. And mom and dad didn’t catch it, either.

Eleven years later, the country is now dealing with the coronavirus. Though my feelings on mask-wearing are the same as they were in 2009, I understand there is still disagreement in some circles about whether wearing one helps, as can be evidenced by the number of people on any given day at the grocery or drug store not wearing one.

Here are my tips for what “both sides” should do in those situations.

If you’re a mask wearer and see someone in the store not wearing one, don’t confront them. Just don’t. Leave it up to the store manager. There have been too many videos shared on social media of mobs of mask wearers confronting and chasing non-mask wearers out of stores, or individual mask-wearers flipping out their phones to video their confrontations with non-mask wearers. This accomplishes nothing but making people very angry.

And speaking of that, if you are a non-mask wearer and someone confronts you, don’t throw a temper tantrum, and definitely don’t start throwing things. We’ve been seeing too many videos of that, too. Try to keep your cool and finish your shopping trip if you can. Bring a mask and put it on if it helps you finish your trip without being accosted.

A little common courtesy goes a long way for all parties in these situations.


Stacey Matthews has also written under the pseudonym Sister Toldjah and is a regular contributor to RedState and Legal Insurrection.