What’s so hard about wearing a mask?

Remember the good old days when conspiracy theorists were confined to their parents’ damp, dark basements, justly isolated from the rest of the world?

Now, in the age of the internet, and thanks in particular to the scourge that is social media, it has become way too easy for them to conduct their “research” (usually cursory reviews of obscure websites or Facebook and YouTube posts from whack jobs with non-existent or questionable qualifications) and spread their newfound “knowledge” in ways that can look legitimate to the naive and ill-informed.

Usually most of us normal folks simply dismiss this group and their ridiculous theories (vaccinations, G5 towers, Bill Gates, etc.) without paying much attention.

But conspiracy theorists’ treatment of the COVID-19 pandemic has presented those of us in the real world with a major problem.

Given the nature of COVID-19 transmission, notably that it can be spread by asymptomatic carriers, conspiracy theories are particularly dangerous right now, even if just a fraction of people act on them by refusing to wear a mask or to adhere to physical distancing requirements.

And while I still believe conspiracy theorists make up but a minority of the population, anecdotal evidence suggests their numbers have grown during the COVID-19 pandemic, which is an alarming development.

I am shocked that anyone would refuse to wear a mask when it has been proven to be effective in protecting others. I am even more dismayed that anti-maskers may be flouting the local public health order and/or spreading debunked nonsense about the “negative” effects associated with wearing face coverings.

If masks are so harmful, shouldn’t doctors, nurses and other health care workers who have worn them for hours on end for the last four months be dropping like flies?

Another theory thrown around by the conspiracy crowd is that COVID-19 isn’t that serious. “It’s no worse than the flu,” they’ll say. “And it only kills old people.”

I think current surges in cases, both here and in the U.S., are enough to put that fallacy to rest. But even if true, don’t our most vulnerable citizens deserve protection? I guarantee you, if things were reversed, seniors would be doing everything in their power to protect younger people.

Of course, some people with legitimate health exemptions can’t wear a mask, but there are very few of them (recently doctors with asthma and other health conditions have told media outlets they wear masks regularly without any complications). Sadly, some people are just looking for excuses – and endangering the rest of us in the process.

Then there’s the people groaning about how wearing a mask infringes upon their “rights.” Huh? This ludicrous notion should always be trumped by common decency and one’s duty not to infect others.

Recently a few people even announced they would shop elsewhere if they had to wear a mask while visiting businesses in Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph. Well isn’t that a great help to local businesses that have suffered immensely over the past three to four months (and that had no say in the mask order in the first place).

Before spreading misinformation about COVID-19, or any other conspiracy theory for that matter, ask yourself the following questions: How plausible is the information? Is there a rational non-conspiracy explanation? Does it hold up to scrutiny by actual experts?

Look, we get it, the public health order requiring masks in businesses likely should have come much sooner.

And no one enjoys wearing a mask. It’s inconvenient, it makes you look like a tool and it can provide a frightening halitosis reality check. But all that pales in comparison to the proven health benefits.

Wearing a mask doesn’t make you a “sheep,” as the conspiracy theorists like to say. It makes you selfless, smart, considerate and an informed, contributing member of society.

Don’t be a covidiot. Wear a mask.

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Like many other news websites, we found enabling comments to be more trouble than it was worth.

As is the case with most things, a few bad apples spoiled it for everybody. We had considered making the change for some time,  but the decision was fast-tracked due to some hurtful comments made on Black Lives Matter articles.