An easy safety tool

Premier Tim Houston (left) ended the mask mandate but Dr. Robert Strang urges Nova Scotians to continue wearing them. Photo: CNS

Mandatory masking is over, but COVID rages on — so why not take a simple step to protect your loved ones?

Nova Scotia’s mask mandate is over.

It will be nice to see faces again. There are some I work with every day who I’ve never seen without a mask. That isn’t a new thing for me. I once worked in an industrial plant where, because of fumes, we all wore respirators, and I could only identify coworkers by their body language.

I’ve been thinking about how people have used masking in the past and when did they finally unmask. In future, old photos of us will show all of the colourful face covering that we wore, whether they were on our faces or on our chins.

This is not the first time that people looked forward to dropping their masks. After the flu pandemic of 1919, there was actually an “anti-mask league” in San Francisco, where one meeting was attended by 2,000 people.  Many articles about the 1919 pandemic describe the masking rules, but I could not find one that tells of when people finally stopped wearing them. It’s hard to tell if the practice petered out over time or ended abruptly.

Masking was common in Japan long before COVID-19, dating back to at least the 1960s. In the early 2000s, the Japanese government began a public health campaign to encourage masking. Now, everyday wearing of masks is considered respectful, showing consideration for their family and co-workers.

It will be interesting to see how mask-wearing will play out in North America, where extremists see wearing a simple piece of personal protective equipment as a political statement.

I’ll continue to wear a mask at work. I’m used to taking safety precautions, and it’s just another piece of clothing to put on, like my steel-toed boots. I’ll also wear it in crowded public places to protect myself and others around me who are at higher risk, but I’ll be glad to not have to wear one when I’m in an elevator by myself and other places like that.

Despite what some people wish to believe, the pandemic is still raging. In November 2021, scientists detected a variant dubbed “Stealth Omicron,” which is even more contagious that the current COVID Omicron variant, and it expected to make up at least half of the infections in the near future.

Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health, is recommending people continue to mask despite the end of the mandate, and I won’t be putting mine away anytime soon.

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