Coronavirus: to mask or not to mask?

To wear a mask, or not to wear a mask, that is the question…

I don’t know why I’m paraphrasing Hamlet here, when we all know that Denmark’s infamous dithering prince would most likely have upped and died of coronavirus had he dawdled that long – five acts of an entire play – to decide between wearing a mask or not. (Medicine wasn’t so advanced back in Shakespeare’s day).

Lucky for Hamlet, and Shakespeare fans, the dilemma faced by the Dane was more interesting and complicated than the present mask debate. All Hamlet had to do was decide whether he should kill his usurping uncle or not. (I studied the play for Leaving Cert, and I remember thinking that if Hamlet wasn’t such a damn pussy about claiming his birthright then the play could have been a lot shorter. Just a little editorial note for Mr. Shakespeare there, since “brevity is the soul of wit.”)

Whether or not one wears a mask has become the latest ‘question’ to split the ideologues. The libertarians aren’t pushed and the liberals are pushy. It’s enough to make one become a hermit – which is actually what is recommended to stop the spread of this dreaded virus. It’s an option which I consider more and more each time I hear someone attempt to politicise wearing a mask.

No matter what side of the mask ‘question’ you are on, I think everyone should take a step back and remember what this is all about. And it’s about wearing a mask. That’s all. Very simple.

Just do it Hamlet: wearing a mask is easy

Scientists recommend that we should wear face masks to curb the spread of coronavirus. I’m no Einstein, but this seems reasonable to me, so I wear a mask on my face every time I go into a shop or a crowded place. I didn’t always – mainly because it took me a while to get a mask, but now that I have one, I wear it, and I will continue to. Also, my godmother made me a cool one, so that helps with any aesthetic reservations I’d have.

But how you look is kind of beside the point; if you’re wearing a mask, you’re preventing the spread of a killer virus. That’s a sensible thing to do, and sensible isn’t always sexy. (Take it from me; I always took care to submit my Hamlet Leaving Cert English essays on time). As the doctors and nurses working on the frontline say: how stupid do you think you’d look hooked up to a ventilator?

Even if you don’t listen to scientists – and as a humanities graduate, I get it, scientists are smug a-holes sometimes with their big STEM salaries and their high falutin’ molecular splittin’… Ignore the scientists if you must, but for decency’s sake, listen to the nurses and doctors who see people dying every day in our overwhelmed health system. Would it kill you to wear a mask?