Comparing Masks and Seatbelts

Written By Thomas Lovecchio

The Center for Disease Control and numerous health officials have recommended wearing cloth face covers or facemasks to help prevent the spread of the Coronavirus. Some businesses have also followed this recommendation, requiring individuals to wear a mask in order to enter their business. Masks are necessary because recent studies have shown that a majority of individuals with Coronavirus do not exhibit any symptoms, and even further, individuals who eventually exhibit symptoms can transmit the virus to other individuals before  showing symptoms. While this seems to be a proven public health policy to protect everyone, some individuals refuse to wear masks.

A similar situation arose during the 1918 influenza pandemic. In 1918, the city of San Francisco, California enforced the wearing of masks to help slow down the pandemic. During this time, residents strongly opposed the mask ordinance and eventually the mask ordinance was dropped. About a month later, the city saw an increase in cases and reinstated the mask mandate. Following the reinstatement of the mask mandate, an “Anti-Mask League” was formed to repeal the second mask mandate. San Francisco had one of the highest death rates during this time.

The American public refusing to follow safety guidelines is not just limited to masks, the introduction of seatbelts also faced stiff opposition. The 20th century saw a significant increase in deaths occurring in cars, which lead to seatbelts being required in all vehicles, but using the seatbelts was not mandated. At the time, a majority of Americans opposed mandatory seatbelt laws; some event went so far as to cut them out of their vehicles.

It is hard to ignore the similarities between the 1918 anti-maskers, the 20th century seatbelt opposition, and currently, those who will not wear a mask. In order to learn from history and not let history repeat itself, wear a mask.

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