Shot of two business women wearing a hygienic face mask while work with laptops in the coworking space. Social distancing concept.

The shock and awe that was the coronavirus crisis back in March is wearing off. While there are still plenty of people terrified by the thought of coming down with a virus that causes COVID-19, it is also clear that others are measurably less concerned in early October than they were in early April. This reality leads to a fascinating question relating to public perception and mitigation efforts: will we be wearing face masks forever?

Many states implemented mask mandates months ago. Others did not. Still, others advised masks but allowed local municipalities to make their own rules. Florida is one such example. Now the Governor DeSantis has moved the state into phase 3, local mask mandates are starting to fall by the wayside.

The point of this post is not to argue one way or the. Rather it is to explore the question of whether or not our psychology has been so permanently altered that wearing masks in public will be a permanent part of daily life.

Masks to Stop the Spread

One of the oft mentioned difficulties of government mask mandates is inconsistent data. For example, we all know that the CDC changed its position multiple times. First, they said wearing masks in public didn’t help, then they said everyone should be wearing them. Then they changed their minds multiple times about what kinds of masks were best.

Such inconsistencies do not inspire confidence that government officials know what they are talking about. It’s no wonder some people are on board with mask mandates while others will fight them to the last if need be. The point is that the science is not settled. This leaves some people with fear as their only guide.

Masks were intended to stop the spread of the virus. Fair enough. Early on, Salt Lake City-based Alsco was among many linen service providers that began offering reusable face masks and isolation gowns. They promoted a three-layer mask with a protective center layer designed to trap droplets.

Similarly, venues like Florida’s Walt Disney World mandated three-layer masks a few weeks after reopening. They decided neck gators and bandannas just weren’t cutting it. Everyone seemed to agree that the 3-layer mask was the best way to. Is that still the case?

Infection Rates Are Falling

Months later we are now seeing infection rates drop. We are also seeing the total number of cases leveling off in some places and falling considerably in others. So the question now is what to do going forward. Again, the science isn’t settled.

On the one hand, there are experts insistent that face masks have proved their worth. They point to falling infection and positive test rates and say they could only be the result of mitigation efforts. Yet there is an equal number of experts who say mitigation efforts have had little to do with it. They say the falling numbers merely show a virus running its normal course.

Where does that leave the rest of us? We either have to pick a scientific side or make decisions based on our own understanding. That takes us back to the question of wearing face masks forever. It could be that the public psyche has been so damaged by this whole thing that some people will never give up the security blanket known as the 3-layer mask.

Permanent mask-wearing is not beyond the realm of possibility. It was already a normal part of the culture in many Asian countries before coronavirus struck. It may become normal here, too. Whether that is good or bad is for you to decide.