Why Some People Don’t Wear Masks.

There is growing scientific evidence for masks to fight Covid-19.

There is growing scientific evidence that wearing a mask (and social distancing) is one the most important measures we can take to fight coronavirus. Yet large numbers of people don’t see the need to wear one, leading to recent surges of the virus in most U.S. states. 

According to “Face Masks against COVID-19: An Evidence Review,” available evidence suggests that near-universal adoption of non-medical masks when out in public, in combination with complementary public health measures could successfully reduce effective-R to below 1.0, thereby stopping community spread. Economic analysis suggests that the impact of mask wearing could be thousands of US dollars saved per person per mask.”

The effective-R is now a totemic figure in the COVID-19 pandemic. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said refers the reproduction number of coronavirus cases. 

As Germany’s chancellor, Angela Merkel, explained, an R above one means an outbreak is growing, and below one means that it is shrinking

“It’s important to note,” according to the Evidence Review referred to above, “that they (people) are likely to substantially underestimate effectiveness of masks for source control. When someone is breathing, speaking, or coughing, only a tiny amount of what is coming out of their mouths is already in aerosol form. Nearly all of what is being emitted is droplets. Many of these droplets will then evaporate and turn into aerosolized particles that are 3 to 5-fold smaller. The point of wearing a mask as source control is largely to stop this process from occurring, since big droplets dehydrate to smaller aerosol particles that can float for longer in air.”

Not wearing masks is causing its own disruption of peaceful and law-abiding behavior.

A Target employee in Van Nuys, Calif., ended up with a broken left arm after helping to remove two customers who refused to wear masks.

A cashier told a man refusing to wear a mask that he could not buy a pack of cigars at a convenience store in Perkasie, Pa. He punched her three times in the face.

In San Antonio, a man who was told he could not board a public buswithout a mask shot a passenger, the police said. The victim was hospitalized and the gunman was arrested.

In a confrontation that turned deadly, the security guard at a Family Dollar store in Flint, Mich., was shot and killed after insisting that a customer put on a mask.

Also in Michigan, a customer wiped his face on a Dollar Tree employee’s shirtafter police say the employee told him to wear a mask. 

So why do some people not wear masks?

Mixed Messages:

At the federal level, while the CDC recommends the public wear masks, President Donald Trump didn’t wear a mask during a visit to a Honeywell mask factory. Vice President Mike Pence apparently flouted hospital policy when he visited the Mayo Clinic without a mask on

Both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC) and the World Health Organization now recommend cloth masks for the general public, but earlier in the pandemic, both organizations recommended just the opposite. These shifting guidelines may have sowed confusion among the public about the utility of masks.

Americans Misunderstand the “How Fast the Virus Spreads”:

According to author Joris Lammers in a press release, “People don’t understand, they massively underestimate how fast coronavirus spreads.

Linear growth goes up in a measurable and, well, linear way. But exponential growth is rapidly additive: It multiplies itself by itself.  People have difficulty understanding exponential growth and erroneously interpret it in linear terms instead.”

Researchers at the Social Cognition Center Cologne and the University of Bremen conducted three experiments, each involving more than 500 adults from the United States.

It showed that many viewed the growth in linear terms, even when presented with evidence that it was exponential. Political orientation mattered; conservatives were more likely to misunderstand exponential growth than liberals.


“Rebellion is natural — to a degree,” says Dr. David Aronoff, director of Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s Division of Infectious Diseases and professor of medicine. 

“People naturally rebel when they’re told what to do, even if the measures could protect them,” said Steven Taylor, a clinical psychologist and author of “The Psychology of Pandemics.  People value their freedoms.  They may become distressed or indignant or morally outraged when people are trying to encroach on their freedoms.” 

Meegan Holland, the spokeswoman for the Michigan Retailers Association, said “People can get belligerent when being asked to do something that they do not want to do.”


“To some, wearing a mask means admitting a fear they may not have consciously confronted yet,” said David Abrams, a clinical psychologist and professor of social and behavioral science at New York University’s School of Global Public Health.

“Many view the mask as a walking symbol of vulnerability that tells others you’re scared about contracting the virus. So, to compensate for that fear, and as a show of strength, they may reject the masks entirely,” he said. 


New York psychiatrist Margaret Seide, MD wrote:“Some mask refusers see the issue only in terms of thoughtlessness or selfishness, they don’t understand that wearing a face mask can prevent the virus from spreading not just to them but to their family members and community as well. They don’t see the benefit of doing something for the greater good, even if it is inconvenient.

In general, people treat others the way they feel about themselves. So, if they don’t care about the welfare of others, it’s likely that they have deep insecurities where they have difficulty feeling compassion for themselves and exercising self-care.”   


Further, Dr. Seide wrote: “There are voices out there questioning the data we are being presented with regarding the prevalence and severity of COVID-19; it has become something of a movement. There are people literally denying the virus, and there are people who are subconsciously in denial about the virus.”


Not to mention, masks aren’t physically comfortable either. That may be enough to steer some people away from them.


2 thoughts on “Why Some People Don’t Wear Masks.

  1. It will be interesting and probably sad to see the spread of the virus following the motorcycle rally in Sturges this week during which 250,000 bikers will assemble maskless in bars and various other venues exercising their “freedom” to be irresponsible. Lost in this expression of freedom is the concept of the “common good,” something that will be drowned in a beery bacchanal.

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