Every time I leave the house, turn on the radio, or watch TV I seem to find an advertisement telling me to wear a mask. In my mind, I wonder why I need to be reminded to do this? I don’t want to get COVID-19, nor do I want to spread it.
Then I go online. Every time I scroll through my timeline I seem to see a video of someone losing their mind over a mask ordinance. There’s a portion of COVID deniers in this country, and nobody is going to violate their freedoms. Wearing a mask is a form of government control and a form of oppression.
Believe it or not, the CDC believes wearing a mask is beneficial when trying to prevent the spread of COVID-19. However, their directions regarding the use of masks has changed since the onset of COVID-19 in the United States. These changes like resulted in some confusion regarding the importance of mask when trying to control the spread of COVID-19.
Regardless of the confusion, can the government really mandate people wear masks? Can they force businesses to require masks? As a second wave of COVID-19 is on the rise, many parts of the country are trying to control the spread while allowing local businesses to stay afloat.
Can the Government Force You to Wear a Mask?
Short answer: yes. Long answer: no.
Generally, we look to the example of Jacobson vs. Massachusetts, a case from 1905 where a man refused to receive the smallpox vaccine during a time when the disease was spreading. In his defense, he stated the vaccine could injure one’s health, sometimes to the point of death. The case sided with the state of Massachusetts, ruling they were within their rights to require vaccination during a time when smallpox was spreading.
This case set a precedent to reasonably restrict rights during a state of emergency for the sake of public health. Further, wearing a mask has fewer risks and is less invasive than receiving a vaccination.
The CDC also outlined some situations and condition where people should not wear masks. Young children, individuals with breathing issues, or those who cannot remove the masks themselves are among the exempt. Medical professionals can also issue exemptions based on individual health issues.
For most people, the government seems to have some ability to require you to wear as mask in public. We are in a time when wearing a mask in can prevent the spread of a contagious disease. It is 100% foolproof? No. Is it better than nothing? Absolutely.
Do Private Businesses Need to Require Masks?
More and more, companies are requiring customers to wear masks. If it’s a privately owned company, they can set whichever restrictions they deem appropriate. If Walmart wants you to wear a mask, and you don’t want to, tough. Walmart can refuse to serve you if they’d like.
The real question, can the government require a private business to enforce the mask policy? The answer is yes, but this has not been required across the country yet. Some state require masks while most simply recommend masks. Requirements are frequently changing, but businesses are expected to honor the the state’s guidelines.
So, if you like going to Bill’s Dollar Store, and Bill doesn't believe in COVID-19, he may still need to require his customers to wear masks. If you serve the public, you need to follow public safety guidelines within your state. If Bill’s store is in California, his customers need to wear masks or he can be subject to legal action. So if you’re looking to take your mask off, you’re not saved by entering a privately owned business. Unless you’re with your direct family, you’re supposed to follow the state’s ordinance regarding the use of masks in public.
Has the Government Restricted Us Like This Before?
Yes, the almighty government has placed restrictions on activities for the sake of public health in the past. If you haven’t designated whether or not you’d like to sit in the smoking or non-smoking section in a while, it’s because smoking restrictions continue to rise. In case you didn’t know, smoking is unhealthy. Secondhand smoke is also unhealthy, and while you can choose to accept the personal risks associated with smoking, it’s becoming increasingly hard to subject others to secondhand smoke.
Similarly, there are regulations surrounding the use of seatbelts. Believe it or not, seatbelts can save lives. However, the single act of not wearing your seatbelt only puts yourself at increased risk. Still, states tell riders and passengers to “click it or ticket,” enforcing their beliefs on seatbelts onto travelers.
In fact, almost any product you purchase has the thumbprint of government control on it. Nutrition facts, Surgeon’s General Warnings, and exposure to hazardous materials are regulated by the government. While there may not be direct government control associated with this information, they exist so companies can cover all their bases. You can’t sue Reese’s for irritating a peanut allergy because they warn you that Peanut Butter Cups may contain nuts.
Should Companies Require Face Masks?
I’d like to make on thing clear: I am not a doctor. Also, yes. Companies should require you to wear a mask.
I do understand the concerns associated with inconsistent information, as this shows that the CDC doesn’t have all the answers regarding COVID-19. This is 100% true, they are using the information they have to have the best recommendations possible.
They do know COVID-19 is spread through droplets. Whether you know it or not, your mouth is moister than you realize. If you cough or sneeze, you become an Aerosol can spraying germs and saliva. Masks contain this spread.
As efforts to control the spread of COVID-19 continue, regulations regarding the use of masks will continue to be enforced. Some states have approached a point where people can get into legal trouble for not wearing a mask. Even if your state doesn’t laws in place, you can still get sick or spread sickness.
Businesses are smart to enforce a mask policy. A store or restaurant found liable for a COVID-19 outbreak is likely to receive public backlash. Not only could there be legal consequences, but it would hurt the business’s reputation and require the business to be sanitized before reopening. Also, people get sick. That’s bad too.
Wearing a mask is not about you. It’s about controlling the spread of disease, accepting the fact that your body can spray germs onto others, and placing a barrier between germs and the public. If you have a true medial condition where you can’t wear a mask, it’s likely your doctor would also advise you to stay home as much as possible. Otherwise, just wear the mask.