By Assunta Ng
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
In Washington state, the mask mandate will be lifted on Mar. 21, one of the last states to lift the mandate. Is this bad or good news?
To millions of people, it will be a relief. Some say, “I can’t wait.” Those who oppose masks will likely say they finally have their freedom back, and they might even attribute it to their relentless fight against the mask requirement.
Let’s put politics aside. I know we are all tired of the virus. You want this bad dream, Covid, to go away. You want it to be over with and move on with your lives. Therefore, not wearing masks symbolizes your break from this illness and a new beginning in the Year of the Tiger.
Empathetically, I am with you. Realistically, I am not with you.
Whether you plan to wear masks or not after the mandate lifts, the fact is, the pandemic still exists even though the number of infected cases and deaths have been dropping. Covid has not ended. No one knows if there will be another new variant or if the current variant will stick around. You can get infected even though you have the vaccine and booster, although the impact would be much milder and no hospitalization is likely needed.
If you are sick with Covid and unvaccinated, you may die like Washington state Sen. Doug Erickson at the age of 52. For those who have recovered, their immune system is never the same again. Patients who suffer from long Covid experience constant fatigue, memory loss, and muscle and joint pain, according to a New York Times article.
If you are vaccinated and boosted, no matter how mild your case is, you will still need to be confined and isolated for days. During that time, it’s not just you who suffers, but your loved ones as they have to take care of you, and can’t be close to you for fear of infection. Is this a risk you want to take? Anything you do will have consequences.
Lately, science has a new invention. If you get really sick, you don’t have to die as there is an expensive medicine, Paxlovid developed by Pfizer, which studies say can reduce hospitalization and death. It costs the U.S. government $530 per course. It has side effects, including diarrhea, according to goodrx.com.
Even if I’m not paying for the treatment, I don’t want to suffer from Covid and the side effects from strong medicine. So don’t expect me to be unmasked on March 21. I will continue to wear a mask in public among crowds. I will unmask only if I venture to parks, forests, and waters, and sometimes, dining in restaurants. I will eat without masks, but will quickly mask back up after I eat.
There are advantages to wearing masks. My hay fever has disappeared for the past two years, and possibly this year, too. No more pollen has wandered into my nose. My husband notices some symptoms like colds he had experienced in the past, from time to time, have vanished.
With masks, we are protecting ourselves from all kinds of germs, not just the coronavirus. During winter, the mask actually keeps my face from being cold and dry. It protects our skin. It’s a skin-care mechanism.
One unexpected benefit is that I don’t have to wear much make-up anymore. The logic is simple: No one can see me. So why do it? I save lots of time. Money, too. I get used to seeing my true self in the mirror. Vanity has suddenly turned into an unfamiliar word. And I feel free.
I do put on make-up when I dine out with friends, as I have to remove my mask. The make-up process would then be more therapeutic. I imagine myself as an artist transforming an aging face into an energetic-looking woman. This is an odd thing during Covid—I need to break away from certain routines and reinvent myself from time to time to keep myself sane. And cosmetics seem to do the trick.
There’s a silver lining for masks. Masks are here to stay. No one would perceive it as strange or a sign of weakness like before. People won’t laugh as much at those Asian Americans who wear masks. It’s the only protection for many Asian countries during SARS and Covid. Now, we understand it’s for life and death, self-protection, and for the protection of others. The irony is, it takes a pandemic and millions of tragedies in deaths and infections, and several scientific studies to convince people that the mask is an effective medical tool.
Only Hawaii has not set a date to unmask. It may never set a date to unmask for indoor gatherings. I know some fools who oppose masks, will tease those who wear one. But don’t be afraid to be teased. Stand firm for your principle of safety and protection because you are selfless. Your health matters. Keep your masks on especially if you are sick or not comfortable with the people around you. Those fools being bullies, are not my concern. What I worry about are their children. I pray they are alright and survive from their parents’ stupidity.
Who may have the last laugh? Probably Hawaii and its people.
Assunta can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.