Is it time to drop the mask mandate?


James Deakin

So, Cebu has just recently dropped the mask mandate, encouraging people to use their own personal discretion instead. The news was received with mixed reactions, of course, with some government officials and netizens warning of a tsunami of cases to follow and others celebrating the return of common sense saying that masks never worked to begin with. Both sides present strong arguments, but once you peel through all the emotion that is driving it, at this stage of the pandemic (with no discernible difference in cases between countries that have dropped the mandate versus countries that have not) there really is no real-world, conclusive evidence that either side is correct; so the best step forward is to finally make it a personal choice so that we can put this whole wretched pandemic behind us once and for all, and simply get on with our lives the way each one sees fit.

I know this will anger some, especially those that have developed Stockholm syndrome, but if you’re one of those people still on the fence here, the key thing to remember here is, this lifting of the mandate does not affect you; just because it is no longer mandatory, that doesn’t mean you are not allowed to wear one. So, you are covered. Literally and figuratively. Now if you are one that feels that both parties need to wear a mask for it to work, then you can just double mask. Problem solved.

Now I can already read some of the comments as I type this article. “But why not just play it safe by keeping them? What harm is there except a little inconvenience? It is a small price to pay for safety. Konting tiis lang. Better safe than sorry. Stop being a Karen!”

While I can see their point, I respectfully disagree. Because there is damage. Aside from the unnecessary costs (both financial and environmental) if there is such a thing as a placebo effect, surely the same works in reverse for measures like masks, face shields, PPE and the whole Covid theatre. If you are constantly surrounded by images of sickness, you are more likely to get sick because research shows that the placebo effect has focused on the relationship of mind and body. One of the most common theories is that the placebo effect is due to a person's expectations. If a person expects a pill to do something, then it's possible that the body's own chemistry can cause effects similar to what a medication might have caused. The same also applies in reverse. If you expect to get sick, you are more likely to get sick.
There are also the psychological effects of covering up and preventing us from seeing one another’s facial expressions, as well as the added interference with communication and the interpersonal connections that are so important for our well-being.

Humans are social beings, and these connections are essential to our mental and emotional health and should be given the same attention and value as our physical health, and not simply brushed aside as being 'maarte' — just like we have done over the last two and a half years. Because now that the worst of Covid is over, the same experts that told us all to mask up, isolate and vaccinate are now saying that the new global pandemic will be a mental health one — so isn’t it about time it be given equal importance and be factored in to public policy?