The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author alone and do not necessarily represent the position of ZU Media or APU.

Medical and cloth masks are mostly ineffective at stopping the spread of the COVID-19, hospitalizations are down and the coronavirus is nothing but a cold at this point.

Come this Monday, April 18, Philadelphia will reinstate its indoor mask mandate. The reason for the reinstatement is a rise in COVID-19 cases, according to Public Health Commissioner Dr. Cheryl Bettigole.

“Monday’s case count is more than 50% higher than it was 10 days ago, Bettigole said, noting the number of people hospitalized is still low. The city is now averaging 142 cases per day,” according to CNN.

Philadelphia is the first major city in the US to reinstate indoor mask mandates, giving other major cities an opportunity to learn from this example—an example of what not to do, that is.

I’m sure we could talk in circles about the mask issue and whether or not we personally believe masks are effective or not, so instead of doing that, I’ll bring in a professional. 

In October of 2020, Dr. Roger W. Koops wrote an article titled “The Year of Disguises” that discusses the efficacy of masks. In the article, Koops discusses the size of the coronavirus and influenza, coming to the conclusion that “both are about the same size, ranging around 100 ±30 nanometers.”

If you don’t speak science (like myself), I recommend that you read the article in its entirety for a better understanding. But for the sake of this article, all you need to know is that the coronavirus is infinitesimally small.

Now, according to the Mayo Clinic, medical masks are intended “to protect the wearer from contact with droplets” and cloth masks are “intended to trap respiratory droplets that are released when the wearer talks, coughs or sneezes.”

That all sounds well and dandy when you first read it, but as Koops points out, stopping a droplet is not the same as stopping the coronavirus. Given the tiny nature of the coronavirus, droplets sometimes carry a “hitchhiking virus.” If this droplet lands on someone’s face covering (as opposed to going right through it), the droplet may evaporate, but the virus will not. This often leads to the virus being expelled into the environment the next time the mask-wearer breathes, coughs, speaks, sneezes, etc.

Koops goes on to say that “the face covering acts as an intermediary in transmission. It can alter the timing of the virus getting into the environment, but it now acts as a contact source and airborne source; [the] virus can still get into the environment.”

Essentially, wearing a mask, cloth or medical, isn’t doing much for us. In fact, Koops warns that mask-wearing may actually increase the risk of transmission rather than increase protection.

“It boggles my mind when there is some notion that by wearing a face covering you are actually doing a ‘service’ to your neighbor and therefore everyone has to protect everyone by this. Actually, the opposite is true … not only are you increasing your own risk but you are also increasing the risk to others,” he states in the article.

Not only are cloth and medical masks largely ineffective in stopping the spread of the coronavirus, but hospitalizations from COVID-19 in Philadelphia are still decreasing, despite a rise in the average number of daily cases.

This is likely because the strain of coronavirus that is being spread is the BA.2 omicron subvariant—a variant that may be highly contagious, but is not nearly as severe as the variants that came before it.

Of course, if someone is worried about contracting the coronavirus and really wants to wear a mask, they are allowed to do so, but implementing mandates is not the solution. 

As Leana S. Wen writes in The Washington Post, “government-imposed mandates are a last resort. They are blunt tools to be used extremely sparingly and in true public health emergencies, when all other options have been exhausted. Now is not that time.”

At the end of the day, people don’t want to be told what to do — especially when what they are being told to do makes little to no sense. Medical and cloth masks are not effective in stopping the spread of COVID-19, hospitalizations are low and continuing to decrease and the BA.2 variant is the mildest one yet.

Instead of hyper fixating on COVID-19, city governments need to start focusing on relevant issues that truly affect the wellbeing of their citizens and communities.