I just read that nearly 30% of Americans sometimes, rarely, or never wear a mask in public and it makes me want to bang my head on something. Nothing too hard though, because our hospitals have been through enough and don’t need the likes of a self-inflicted head injury taking up bed space right now.

It astounds me that after surpassing the 140,000 death mark today  — that’s more than 4,300 9/11’s, for perspective — we are still talking about this. But here we are.

How to convince people to wear a mask: Covid cases in the US as of July 19, 2020 (CDC)

Map: CDC, July 21, 2020


I know some areas of the country are harder hit than others, some are safer, and we’re all different phases of reopening — or closing up again. I also know that overall, acceptance of masks is going up as are state mask mandates. And that’s great.

But just as importantly as you wearing a mask, is that you encourage everyone in your life and in your community to do the same. Because the most impactful influencers are always trusted friends and family. Especially when the leadership we would normally turn in a health crisi is failing us.

That’s where you come in. 

If you’re finding yourself confronted with someone who doesn’t want to wear a cloth mask in public, feels they aren’t bound to by law, or spouts any number of conspiracy theories, medical misinformation. or inaccurate “news” reports about masks, hopefully some of these arguments, backed by reputable medical and scientific sources, can help you out.

I’m always a fan of appealing to logic, but I know that there are other tactics. Try compassion. Try fear. Try compassion. Try biblical quotes. Try shaming. Seriously, whatever it takes at this point.

Like you — like everyone — I just want to get back to normal.


Related: The easiest DIY no-sew mask tutorial

10 science-backed arguments for wearing a cloth mask in public


1. The non-partisan CDC recommends wearing masks.

The CDC recommends wearing masks in public settings and when interacting with people not in your household.  Feel free to share the entire article, or the whole website if you’d like.

If it helps, consider the CDC is made up of the same non-partisan scientists and researchers who tell you not to eat raw chicken and to wear sunscreen. They don’t tell you to cook chicken because they want to suppress your freedoms and control your mind; they want to keep you healthy and safe. That’s why they went into medicine and science and research and the first place.

Oh, and the US Surgeon General has now joined the fray of experts “pleading with you” to wear a mask, so…wear a mask.


2. Wearing a mask has already saved countless lives. 

You know why the CDC recommends wearing masks? Because they work! The Mayo Clinic reports the same. Masks are a proven link in the decline in Covid-19 infection rates in states with mandatory mask orders. and fewer cases means fewer deaths.

According to research published in the Journal of Health Affairs, 15 states plus DC that mandated mask wearing from April to May, were related to a decline in infection rate by as much as 2%.

Does 2% sound small? In human numbers, that comes out to between 230,000–450,000 COVID-19 cases averted by May 22, in just 3 weeks of mandatory mask use. How many of those cases would have been serious, or fatal?

Convincing people to wear masks: The correlation between mask usage and Covid increases and decrease, via Philadelphia Inquirer, June 2020

Chart from Philadelphia Inquirer, June 24, 2020


3. If you contract Covid-19, it’s not “just like the flu” so wear a mask. 

If you haven’t read the story of Nick Cordero’s battle with Covid-19, read it. It’s harrowing. There’s no starker example that this is not the freaking flu and the story has stayed with me since I first heard about his condition.

Oh, and tens of thousands of people die from the flu each year so it’s a pretty crappy example anyway.


4. Masks will not make you sick. Come on.

Masks do not cause hypoxia, as you can see from this video from Dr. Eric Ball. It’s crazy talk, so stop it. It’s not like putting a plastic bag over your head and tying it tightly around your neck. It’s cotton! Or paper!

The term for these fabrics is… (wait for it) breathable!

Mask myths: No, they do not cause hypoxia or deplete oxygen levels. That's why surgeons can wear them all day

I have had seasonal asthma all summer, as have friends and family members and we wear masks — and continue to have oxygen levels above 98%. Surgeons wear masks all day and are not dropping dead or passing out, so just you know…logic. Use that.

See also: Halloween.


4. Masks help you keep other people safe, especially because you don’t always know if you’re sick or contagious. 

Asymptomatic and presymptomatic people spread Covid a lot. In fact up to 45% of infected people may not display symptoms at all. You could be one of them. So if you care about other people — your family, your neighbors, your local shopkeepers, wait staff, grocery clerks, that lady walking the dog on your block — wear a mask.

It also reassures those who may be more at-risk that you are taking this seriously, and that’s a nice thing to do for other people at a time of so much fear and uncertainty.

I know the dark joke out there is “no one wants to kill Grandma,” but literally — if you were responsible for hurting someone you loved you would be devastated. Or so one hopes.


5. Masks can keep you safer and protect you from Covid-19 after all.

It was originally believed that we we mainly wear masks to protect others. While that should be incentive enough, now we find out there is growing evidence that wearing a mask protect the wearer in significant ways.

In fact, you can decrease your own risk by 65%. That’s a lot. If you could somehow cut down the chance of raii-aiin on your wedding day by 65% wouldn’t you do it?

Plus there’s this new info: Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Monica Ghandi of UCSF explains the correlation between amount of infected particles and severity of Covid symptoms in multiple studies and it’s pretty amazing. In short, “the less virus that you [breathe in], the less sick you’re likely to be.”

That may also explain why even states with rising Covid cases are seeing lower hospitalization than earlier in the spring — because, mask usage. So wear a mask.


6. It doesn’t matter if you’re coughing or sneezing —  you can spread Covid through respiratory droplets just by talking.

When you speak, even at a normal volume, it turns out you may emit the same number of droplets as you do by coughing. Wow.

This video from the New England Journal of Medicine shows the actual difference between droplets expelled from someone’s mouth with and without a mask on… and it’s riveting. Take a look.


7. Covid does not just impact old people or immunocompromised people, so whatever your age or condition, wear a mask.

Healthy people in their 20s, 30s, 40s can get Covid. And do. And have. And will continue to get it.

A healthy 27-year-old man had a stroke from Covid. Kids get Covid. College students get Covid. Last week a baby boy tragically died from Covid — one of 85 infants testing positive in a single Texas county this past month. Oof.

Convincing people to wear masks in public: 10 science-based arguments

Of the 130,000 and growing deaths in the US, there are so many stories about healthy younger people becoming critically ill , and you can Google them as easily as I have. So do that, Then wear a mask.

Photo by Edwin Gonzalez on Unsplash

8. Covid does not just impact people who “believe” in it.

This pandemic is not a hoax. Just ask Thomas Macias.
Brian and Erin Hitchens.
Mark Frilot.
Hunter Chambers.


9. You don’t need a law to do the right thing in the name of health and public safety. 

We do so many things to keep ourselves and our families healthy, even without “the law” telling us we must; laws don’t mandate that we wash our hands after changing the cat litter. Laws don’t mandate that we wear sunscreen or brush our teeth or change our sheets. Laws don’t force us to bring a zillion kinds of snacks for the kids on every car ride.

So forget the politics; just because your governor or mayor or local bar may not be mandating masks, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t wear one in the best interest of your family, your country, your community, and even yourself.

(And hey, if your local shops or restaurants aren’t mandating masks, maybe consider how much they care about your well-being. Then, choose who to support accordingly.)


10.  Wearing a mask will get us back to normal, faster.

Mask wearing helps us get back to normal, faster: 10 arguments to encourage masks in public Photo Shawnee D on Unsplash

Do you want to get back to normal? Do you want your kids to go to school? Do you want to see your grandparents again? Do you want to see your favorite sports team or go to a show? Do you want to just hug someone you love again?

Then listen to CDC Director Robert R. Redfield who says that the Covid pandemic in the US could be under control in just 4-6 weeks with widespread mask-wearing. Whoa.

He explains that in addition to washing hands, staying outdoors, and social distancing, “if we all wore face coverings for the next four, six, eight, twelve weeks across the nation, this virus transmission would stop.”


I like the sound of that.


Top image: engin akyurt on Unsplash