Mask or No Mask? That Is the Question

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by Candice Galvan |

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Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, many of us across the country have been doing everything we can to protect those around us and ourselves.

I still remember when a federal mask mandate on public transportation was issued in the U.S. at the start of last year. I also recall how, early on in the pandemic, countless people banded together to make masks for front-line workers, loved ones, and friends while everyone stayed at home in isolation. In fact, at one point, masks and face coverings were sold out everywhere, so people started making their own.

I was lucky enough to receive a handmade mask sewn by my 13-year-old daughter, Bella, who was diagnosed with neuromyelitis optica when she was 9.

Last week, U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle struck down an extension of the federal mask mandate on public transportation, calling it unlawful. In her ruling, the judge claimed the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had exceeded its authority in issuing the mandate, according to Reuters.

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The announcement of the ruling, which affected travelers on airplanes, trains, taxis, and ride-sharing services, prompted many people to rip off their masks mid-flight and cheer throughout the nation’s airports. It also caused a great deal of confusion, stress, anger, worry, and uncertainty, especially in elderly and immunocompromised communities.

I have experienced a little of each of these emotions because Bella is susceptible to getting sick easily. COVID-19 cases are on the rise again in some states, meaning the pandemic isn’t over. I have relied on science throughout the pandemic, including recommendations and other guidance by the CDC on the wearing of masks.

Neuromyelitis News | Bella and Candice pose for a selfie in the hospital early on in the pandemic. Both are wearing colorful masks

Candice Galvan

From left, Bella and Candice mask up at the start of the pandemic in 2020, while Bella awaits an infusion at the hospital. (Photo by Candice Galvan)

While some may find that wearing a mask is uncomfortable or inconvenient, it is a blessing for us. If worn correctly, a mask can help protect a person from getting sick or spreading the virus to others.

Since widespread masking took effect in the country, Bella hasn’t gotten sick with anything besides COVID-19, which she contracted after returning to school following a winter break. In the four years since Bella was diagnosed with NMO, she’s been hospitalized at least twice a year due to severe illness from colds that progressed to pneumonia or other issues. Her NMO symptoms are exacerbated by other illnesses, such as colds or the flu, which adds another layer of concern for us.

I am impressed that Bella always has her mask at the ready, and that she has learned how to take precautions to prevent herself from getting sick. A few months ago, Bella’s school lifted its own mask mandate, making the wearing of masks optional, but most students continued to wear them, including Bella.

I recently asked her how she feels about wearing a mask, and she replied that they make her feel protected. She also said she wants to protect others, too.

I continue to make educated decisions about wearing a mask. Although I don’t wear them all the time, I do wear them indoors, in close proximity to others, at the doctor’s office or hospital, on an airplane, and in crowded areas where I can’t practice social distancing. I also love wearing my mask when it’s cold outside, because it keeps my face warm in the Colorado weather.

One thing I’ve learned in the last two years is that we are all in this together. We survive, thrive, and learn together. Life is a precious gift, and we should be able to live it to its fullest. But that requires a degree of responsibility, so in our family, we will continue to mask up as needed. We will continue to make each day count by loving and living as best we can.

Note: Neuromyelitis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Neuromyelitis News or its parent company, Bionews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorder (NMOSD).


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