SALT LAKE CITY — The conversation about wearing masks in public has clearly come to symbolize a lot more than a public health precaution, to the consternation of public health experts.
“It's really about keeping others safe,” said Utah State Epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn, answering a question about the number of Utahns choosing not to wear a mask when in close proximity to others in public.
“There is evidence out there of pre-symptomatic or asymptomatic spreading of COVID-19, so face coverings will certainly help prevent that asymptomatic spreading of COVID-19,” Dunn added.
The FOX 13 Facebook page provided clear evidence that the choice of whether or not to wear a mask brings up intense emotions with political and personal implications that extend beyond the recommendation from epidemiologists.
On the side of wearing masks, the expressions are of exasperation.
“Seems more men flex their muscles on this, including my careless son,” says one mask wearer.
“I … am not afraid of being sick so I will continue to live free,” says a person who chooses to not wear a mask.
The Facebook question: “Do you think some people are refusing to wear a mask in public places as a political statement?” inspired more than 600 comments in an hour.
Then a Facebook poll asking: “Do you wear a mask when you are around other people in public?” had more than 6,000 votes in less than two hours.
Mask wearing was initially discouraged when medical grade “N-95” masks were in short supply and needed by emergency workers. Then the recommendation changed partly because evidence emerged that the virus could infect and be spread by people who had not developed symptoms, and by people who may never develop symptoms, of COVID-19.