Does Collective Interest or Self-Interest Motivate Mask Usage as a Preventive Measure Against COVID-19? Academic Article uri icon

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abstract

  • The revised guidance on masks from public health officials has been one of the most significant COVID-19 policy reversals to date. Statements made at the outset of the pandemic, including those from the World Health Organization (WHO), the United States Surgeon General, and the Chief Public Health Officer of Canada, all actively discouraged asymptomatic members of the general public from wearing masks. However, on April 3, 2020, the United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued new recommendations that called for nonmedical masks, such as cloth face coverings, to be worn in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (Adams, 2020). Canadian public health officials quickly followed with their own guidance for wearing nonmedical masks or face coverings when out in public; however, they have stressed that doing so is optional for asymptomatic persons and should be seen as a complement to existing precautionary measures such as physical distancing and hand hygiene, particularly in cases where physical distancing may not be feasible (Public Health Agency of Canada, 2020). Emphasis was placed on nonmedical masks serving not to protect the wearer, but rather others who come within close proximity of the wearer. Echoing her public statements on the matter, Canada's chief public health officer Tweeted that “[w]earing a NON-MEDICAL mask in public settings has not been proven to add any protection TO the person wearing it, but it can be an additional way to prevent spread FROM an infected person to others” (Tam, 2020).

publication date

  • June 2020