Face masks forever? Americans won't stand for it. Time to drop the masks

First Lady Jill Biden promotes COVID vaccination for children

Fox News medical contributor Dr. Nicole Saphier responds to the Biden administration pushing coronavirus vaccinations for children and reassures parents that ‘COVID-19 causes death in .0001 of every 200 children.’

It’s time to remove face masks.

In March 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended generalized wearing of face masks to lessen the spread of the novel coronavirus. Nearly two years later, a cache of treatments, vaccines, and natural immunity have created an environment where the small benefit of mask-wearing no longer outweigh the risks.

Yet, we continue to be told to do so.

Mysophobia, also known as “germaphobia,” is a type of anxiety based on the irrational fear of germs, like viruses. It is normal to be cognizant of the overall concept of good health and hygiene. When someone has mysophobia, these ordinary concerns are inflated and become disruptive to everyday life. 

White House Chief Medical Adviser Anthony Fauci adjusts his mask during the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions hearing on "Next Steps: The Road Ahead for the COVID-19 Response" on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., November 4, 2021. REUTERS/Elizabeth Frantz
(REUTERS/Elizabeth Frantz)

Just look at two of the most famous germaphobes, Howie Mandell and Howard Hughes. Howard Hughes turned to addiction to battle his severe obsessive-compulsive mysophobia and died alone in a hotel room after spending the preceding two decades in isolation avoiding germs. Howie Mandell, when asked about Howard Hughes’s life of seclusion and addiction said, “I can’t tell you how many times and how close I am to that.”

Last year, at the height of the Covid crisis, he said he was taking medication and “moving my therapist into a whole new tax bracket” while coping with the mental health disorder in the midst of a global pandemic.

Comedian Howie Mandel from the NBC series "America’s Got Talent" poses for photographers at the NBCUniversal UpFront presentation in New York City, New York, U.S., May 14, 2018.  REUTERS/Mike Segar
(REUTERS/Mike Segar)

Howie Mandell is not alone in his struggle. One in four Americans over 18 were also suffering from a mental illness prior to the pandemic. During the pandemic, mental health services for adolescents accounted for a much larger part of all their medical claims than in the past, according to FAIR Health. Also, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry have together declared a national emergency regarding the dire mental health crisis amongst children as a result of isolation and remote learning during Covid-19.

While the mental health consequences of prolonged avoidance of germs may be more obvious, being exposed to everyday pathogens also strengthen the immune system and may even protect kids from developing certain allergies, autoimmune disease, and asthma.

It’s a concept called the “hygiene hypothesis.” This theory stems from observations that developing countries where kids are exposed to more pathogens tend to have lower rates of certain diseases compared to more developed nations. The problem with growing up in germ-free environments is that they fail to provide the needed exposure to germs required to stimulate the immune system. 

For the body to know how to fight pathogens, the immune system must be challenged so it can learn how to launch its defense when necessary. Instead, when it doesn’t undergo early exposure, the defense responses are so inadequate that they contribute to the development of disease. Perhaps this why some moms insist kids sharing bathrooms and the “5-second rule” are good things.

FILE PHOTO: A child reacts while receiving a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine at Smoketown Family Wellness Center in Louisville, Kentucky, U.S., November 8, 2021. REUTERS/Jon Cherry/File Photo
(REUTERS/Jon Cherry/File Photo)

Yet, despite nearly 80 percent of Americans older than 12 years who have received at least one dose of a vaccine and a national testing positivity rate around 5 percent, we are still living in a self-created environment where isolation, sterilization, and mysophobia are not only normal, but encouraged. From people wearing face masks while driving alone to wiping down packages before bringing them into the home; none of this is saving lives. 

Children are wearing face masks in schools yet able to take them down during naps and eating as though the virus respects these boundaries. It doesn’t. The same occurs in theaters, airplanes, and restaurants. Continued unnecessary behaviors add to the mental health epidemic our nation already endures and affects our physical health. Consider as well that disposed masks have become the latest form of pollution.

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky recently tweeted that in addition to lessening the spread of Covid, “Masks also help protect from other illnesses like common cold and flu. Wearing a mask- along w/ getting vaccinated- are important steps to stay healthy.” 

When considering the mental and physical health ramifications, that is not entirely true. We have never sought isolation or face masks to avoid the sniffles.

Los Angeles County’s Director of Public Health Barbara Ferrer announced last week that mask mandates in the county are likely to remain in place into 2023. This comment comes at a time when LA county has pandemic lows in new cases, hospitalizations, and deaths with a one percent positivity rate and more than 73 percent of the population older than 12 years are vaccinated.

Public health officials are insisting face masks may be here to stay without providing science supporting their continued use or delineating metrics for removal. While the barriers continue to make sense in certain healthcare settings, as they pertain to the public, their role in the pandemic is ending. Other countries have adopted masking into everyday life as a repercussion of the first SARS outbreak. 

Americans won’t stand for it. And they shouldn’t, given the different outcomes and potential consequences of such superfluous unremitting actions. Americans are equipped with accessible vaccines and boosters to lessen the risk of illness and scientifically proven treatments for the rare cases of severe infection. 

As the winter holidays pass and the remnants of the Delta variant wave dwindle further, it is time for Americans to remove their masks.

The opinions expressed here belong solely to the author and not her employer.

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