Editorial: To wear mask, or not? That shouldn’t be asked.

Some business leaders in Cebu have welcomed the Department of Labor and Employment’s order that makes the wearing of face masks in all workplaces optional, which is in line with the Presidential order that eschews mandatory wearing of masks in enclosed places. However, mask use is still mandatory in healthcare facilities, medical transport vehicles and public transportation.

Dispensing with the mask mandate is a “step towards normalcy and living the new normal,” businessman Steven Yu said, adding that “a sense of normalcy brings about increased economic activities and hence, it helps in the economic recovery.”

A normal person would definitely not turn away from living a normal life after over two years of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has upended so many lives and economies, and has inflicted misery on families who lost their loved ones to the disease. The pandemic, which forced governments to impose lockdowns, has caused mental distress in some people and worsened the condition of people already living with depression and other forms of mental health disorders.

The sad fact about Covid-19 though is that it will not go away, even after the World Health Organization declares that the pandemic is over.

Back to wearing of face masks. In the West, it is seen as a symbol of physical weakness; however, in the East, most notably in Japan, wearing masks is part of everyday life, a necessity.

A July 2020 article (this was a time when vaccines were unavailable yet) published online by AARP (formerly called the American Association of Retired Persons) laid out a few reasons why masking is a good thing: [1] A person diagnosed with Covid-19 can protect other people if he’s wearing a mask; [2] a person who does not know he’s already contagious can avoid infecting others if he’s wearing a mask; [3] wearing a mask can also protect the wearer; and [4] wearing masks may help the economy recover.

One could be curious about the AARP article’s fourth reason. A portion of the explanation reads: “Masks could offer an economic boon... A report released by investment firm Goldman Sachs found that a national face mask mandate could serve as a substitute for lockdowns ‘that would otherwise subtract nearly five percent from GDP [gross domestic product].’”

Two years after the article was published, most governments around the world, including the Philippines, have eased restrictions on mobility and the policy on mask use.

To wear a face mask, or not? That should not be even asked. Wearing a mask has so many upsides, one of which is that it can help prevent the spread of communicable diseases and make the workforce healthy.

Mask wearing could also make employees feel assured that they are protected within their workplaces.

Why would one not think that mask use is a big step towards normalcy? Though the National Government did not tell Filipinos to completely abandon mask use, public, health and business leaders must welcome the idea that the new normal is a territory where people, whether sick or not, still wear face masks.