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In case you missed the news, a former Navy Seal who claims credit for being the person who fired the fatal shots that ended Osama Bin Laden’s life has been banned from flying on Delta. The ban follows an incident in which he removed his mask onboard a flight, took a selfie, and posted it to Twitter with the line “I’m not a p***y”.
Leaving aside all the arguments we’ve been hearing from people condemning his actions and those rushing to defend him, one very important thing that comes out of all of this is the fact that he obviously has no idea why we’re all being asked to wear masks in the first place…and he’s definitely not alone. That’s concerning.
By posting a picture of himself without a mask (in an environment where masks are required) alongside a statement that sees him claiming not to be “a p***y”, there’s only one message that Robert O’Neil can be trying to put out and it’s a message that says “I’m not afraid of the virus”.
That’s great. I’m genuinely happy that Mr. O’Neil isn’t afraid of the virus. The only problem here is that the act of removing the mask doesn’t actually prove that he’s not afraid of the virus. In this instance, the purpose of a mask isn’t to protect the wearer, it’s to protect everyone around the wearer in case the wearer is contagious. Intentionally or not, by removing his mask the message that Mr. O’ Neil actually sent out was “I don’t give a damn about anyone around me”. He didn’t prove that he wasn’t a p***y” in any way at all.
I guess there’s a very slim chance that Mr. O’Neil wasn’t actually trying to shine a light on his mask removal but, instead, was just trying to prove to everyone that he wasn’t afraid of flying…but the fact that he was once a Navy Seal pretty much tells us that anyway so I doubt that was the message he was going for.
Regardless of what you may think about this particular incident, there’s actually a very serious issue here. While there are undoubtedly a lot of idiots out there who refuse to wear a mask because they simply don’t want to (regardless of the purpose of the mask), there is also an incredible number of people who don’t actually understand why we’re being asked to wear masks in the first place. There’s no getting through to the first group of people because they’re inconsiderate low-lives who couldn’t care less what effect their actions may have on others…but there’s hope for the second group.
In case there’s anyone reading this who, up until now, has been living under the impression that the only reason we’re being asked to wear masks is for our own personal protection, here’s what you need to know:
We’re not wearing masks and other forms of face coverings to protect ourselves. We’re wearing them to limit the chances that we will infect someone nearby if we happen to be a carrier of Covid-19. You don’t have to have any symptoms of the coronavirus to be contagious, so just because you feel fine doesn’t mean that a mask isn’t necessary. Otherwise healthy people can easily contaminate others by spreading the virus through the droplets they put into the environment every time they breathe out, cough or sneeze.
Masks and face coverings are far from a perfect solution, but the basic laws of physics dictate that a barrier covering a person’s nose and mouth will reduce the volume of droplets that escape into the atmosphere or on to surrounding surfaces when a person breathes, sneezes or coughs. No one is claiming that a mask is foolproof and no one is claiming that a face covering will protect everyone around a carrier with 100% certainty. What is being claimed is that by wearing a mask, a carrier of Covid-19 reduces the amount of virus that they are spreading into the environment around them and that’s something that’s critical in the fight to limit the spread.
As long as you don’t know with 100% certainty that you’re not a carrier of Covid-19, you should be wearing a mask when you’re in close proximity to others outside of your home – you may not feel sick or show symptoms, but that doesn’t mean that you’re not a threat to those around you.
Remember: Even if you’ve been tested for Covid-19 and have come up clear that doesn’t prove very much. A negative Covid test only tells you that you didn’t have Covid-19 at the time of the test. It doesn’t tell you that you have immunity and it doesn’t mean that you can’t be infected with the virus at any point after you took the test. A negative Covid test is not a ticket to be reckless.
While the furor surrounding Robert O’ Neil is great entertainment for some, for me it’s just a sign of how uninformed a lot of people still are. There’s no real excuse not to know why masks are important right now, but the reality is that we’re sharing the world with a significant number of people who are very poorly informed (on a wide range of matters). Perhaps if we all work a little harder to help people understand why masks are important, we may be able to reduce the number of people, like Robert O’ Neil, who think that not wearing a mask is a sign of bravery. Let me know how you get on 🙂