TORONTO – As a paramedic for a major service in Ontario, Stephanie Kranjek Correia learns firsthand that masks have played a vital role in keeping her and her frontline colleagues safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. She’s now fully vaccinated, but she has no plans to remove her mask even in a post-pandemic world – and she’s not alone.

To enjoy unexpected benefits such as not getting sick or making others sick, staying warm in winter and taking refuge in oblivion, some people began to appreciate the small piece of cloth for reasons other than preventing COVID-19 infection Huh.

With vaccination rates rising and case numbers and hospitalizations on the rise, things have already begun to return to “normal.” While there is no indication that public health guidelines That will change anytime soon in Canada, with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announcing on May 13 that discussions about wearing masks have resumed that people who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 That is, they will not have to be worn inside a house.

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Correia told she would continue to wear them on public transport and during cold and flu season, even if “some people raise their eyebrows.”

“I don’t care, I’m going to wear a mask because I’m not going to bring that crap home… People might call me overprotective, or neurotic, or crazy, or whatever.”

Correa wouldn’t want to see her three children – all under the age of six – suffer unnecessarily from colds, but she has additional reason to be cautious: her husband, Nuno Correa, has an autoimmune disease that makes her particularly vulnerable. makes it weak.

“Now he is walking around in the middle of a pandemic with no immune system. That’s why he got his second dose so early,” she said.

But because of the medication they take, they have no idea how effective the vaccine will ultimately be for them. Korea said her kids know they have to be extra safe for their father and are really good at wearing masks.

“So that’s another reason why it makes sense to us when we’re in situations where we’re in big crowds, or we’re out and about in flu season.”

The conversation about masks has evolved dramatically during the pandemic. The hesitation in the early days stemmed from a combination of public health messaging, concerns about a lack of supplies for health care workers, doubts over the airborne nature of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, and doubts about the effectiveness of masks. For some, masks have been – and remain – a political flashpoint as well.

but Video It envisioned how masks prevent the spread of germs and study published Has demonstrated its protective function over the past year, along with physical distancing and hand washing, especially if the wearer is ill.

The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) recommended wearing a mask in public in May 2020. As of September, 97 percent of Canadians over the age of 12 were wearing masks in public, Statistics Canada found.

in Canada and Worldwide, Public health measures also helped drive influenza numbers to unimaginably low levels. There were so few cases and no evidence of any community transmission across Canada that PHAC never declared flu season. According to government figures, the total 55,379 influenza cases During the 2019 to 2020 season, which was also cut short by the pandemic. On the contrary, only 72 cases The flu was confirmed in this season as of May 22, 2021.

“I would probably still wear a mask on public transport, especially if I had a cold. It is very full most of the time,” said Chloe Hong. She lives in the Greater Toronto Area and used to commute to work by public transportation before the pandemic.

It’s a sentiment echoed by Julie Gordon, who lives in Ottawa. He and Hong were among a dozen people who told that they plan to continue wearing masks, even if it is no longer necessary.

“Oh man, I hope it becomes the norm for colds and flu,” Gordon said. Still, she said, “though I’m thinking about the societal pressure to ‘go back to normal’.”

Many people want to see wearing masks normal, which can also help people who can’t afford unpaid sick days and/or who have no choice but to take public transportation to work, for example.

Others say the motivation to wear a mask extends far beyond catching the virus.

Last winter, many social media users were happy to finally find a solution that kept them nose warm.

“Can we keep masks when COVID ends? They keep my face warm in winters and let me hide my unsightly jawline. no downsides,” a the user Tweeted in January.

and Joyce Allen wrote on twitter in April, “While so many people are tired of wearing masks, personally, I’m happy to find something that works. [seasonal] Allergies. “

Some women found that wearing a mask meant they didn’t have to worry about their appearance. It also prevented men from harassing them or asking them to “smile”. Washington Post and new York Times Both have reported.

“Wearing a mask is so liberating that I can hang on to it even if they find a COVID-19 cure,” Claire Mackintosh told the Times last year. “Not a single person has suggested that I look beautiful with a grin on my face.”

Susan Orlean, a staff writer for The New Yorker wrote in medium post About the “unexpected pleasures” of wearing a mask and how she “has come to love the neutrality of wearing a mask. I love the privacy it provides me, and the fact that my expression is only mine and mine.”

It’s a sentiment shared by others: “I enjoy wearing my mask now, it gives me some privacy. I think it will be a permanent part of my lifestyle,” a Twitter user said. wrote earlier this month.

A blog about urban China once compared wearing a mask to headphones or sunglasses – serving as asocial firewall” or “do not disturb” sign when in public.

In many parts of Asia where wearing masks became common before the pandemic, it was also not uncommon that people were wearing them when they were under the weather or when the Air Quality Index – which measures how polluted the air is. For example, especially high. And celebrities wore them in public to maintain their anonymity.

To be sure, while there are many legitimate reasons why some people would be happy to see the end of masks – ranging from medical exemptions. past trauma Wearing them has been controversial since the beginning. And in the US, there are many reports of backlash against people who continue to wear them, despite new guidance from the CDC.

Correia is empathetic and can see some people who were not anti-mask during the pandemic reacted poorly to mask-wearers like myself in the post-pandemic environment.

“Seeing someone wearing a mask is going to be like a slap to them, that things aren’t as they were, and it’s going to make them uncomfortable and when people are uncomfortable, they react badly… Just because they don’t, we don’t want to be reminded of the hell we’ve gone through,” Correia said.

The mental health toll experts have warned of the entire pandemic is unlikely to disappear overnight. Despite some people’s desire to do away with masks, there remains much panic about returning to normal after a pandemic. A Lager survey in May found that 52 percent of respondents felt some degree of anxiety over the idea of ​​how things were before COVID-19.

Even with all the practical reasons why Korea plans to keep masking-up, the pandemic has permanently changed its approach.

“Just being on the front lines, and seeing the utter devastation of every generation, for families and businesses, and for the economy, and for our faith in public institutions, and the way we live our lives – I call it I’m not going to forget.”