Coronavirus – Should I Wear a Mask?

Should you be like this guy?

This is “Pink Shirt Guy”, an early Internet meme. Surrounded by EPA engineers in full Hazmat gear he is protected by his pink Izod shirt and Bermuda shorts and sports an Alfred E. Newman “What, me worry?” grin.

I worked for him in the late 1980’s to 1990’s. He was a complicated person, unlike the stereotype of the meme. But, somehow, on the Internet he became a warning for aspiring environmental engineers. I can’t say for sure, however, I think he may have taken some pleasure in not being protected because he felt there was no danger. His commercial property, where I worked, was a one-time EPA superfund site. It had once been home to a chromium plating business. As it turned out it was the property behind his that was really polluted. He apparently knew this and was unconcerned.

Do people who don’t wear masks in public during the coronavirus pandemic know something that scientists and healthcare professionals don’t? You don’t have to hold a Phd to understand that viruses are spread by tiny droplets expelled when people sneeze, cough, or, talk. A mask would at least keep these droplets from reaching others.

Even if Pink Shirt Guy was just exhibiting bravado he only would have been hurting himself. If you are infected but asymptomatic you can infect others just by talking loudly. Would you want to be responsible for infecting someone who could possibly die from the virus? Dying for a political or religious belief is sometimes valorized as being noble. But, killing others for such causes is currently viewed unfavorably as terroristic.

So, do you want to be like “Pink Shirt Guy”? If that means being aware of the risks and acting accordingly, then maybe you do.

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