• Resolving Problems

My Friend Won’t Wear A Face Mask: What Can I Do?

June 30, 2020 | By | 2 Replies Continue Reading

A reader is upset that her friend won’t wear a face mask when they walk outside and asks what she should do.

QUESTION

My friend lives down the block from me. Ordinarily, we like to walk together from time to time. She’s been texting me to walk with her more regularly now that we are both working from home. I really would like to do this but last time we walked, she wasn’t wearing a mask. I put one on each time I leave the house. What should I do if she won’t wear a mask?

Signed, Pat

ANSWER

Hi Pat,

Although there is less risk of catching the virus outdoors than indoors, your walks might still expose you to some risk if your friend is an asymptomatic carrier. 

The science: COVID-19 spreads mainly through respiratory droplets that linger in the air when people talk, cough or sneeze. In general, the risks of contracting the virus increase the closer you are to an infected person and the more time you spend together. Scientists are learning more about the virus each day but, at present, most agree that maintaining a six-foot distance between you and someone else makes it unlikely you will inhale any infectious droplets lingering in the air. 

So if you both keep a 6-foot distance from one another, don’t sneeze or cough (which might propel the droplets) and don’t yell at one another, you both should be relatively safe. Although your wearing a face mask primarily protects others, there is evidence that suggests it also offers you some degree of protection.

Yet, many people choose to wear masks whenever they’re outside. You might ask, why not? 

The medical journal, The Lancet, recently published a seminal report reviewing 172 observational studies on the effectiveness of social distancing, face masks and eye protection in mitigating the effects of the virus. Two conclusions: These simple measures make a difference, and although face masks alone can’t totally protect you, they do add another layer of protection.

My guess is that you and your walking buddy probably have different notions about the spread of the virus and your personal risk. Some people want to do everything they can to protect themselves; others think the risks of infection are greatly exaggerated by the media and/or that they are already doing what’s necessary.

I suspect that these differences between you and your friend are probably more pervasive than mask-wearing alone. Based on your personality, health status and/or politics, you may be more risk-aversive than she.

So, have you politely asked your friend if she could wear a mask during your walks so you will feel safer?

If so, and she has declined, your options are limited. You need to evaluate whether the pleasure you get from these walks and her company are worth the angst and possible risks they entail from your perspective. 

Good luck!

Best, Irene

Have you had irreconcilable differences with friends about pandemic behavior?

Previously on The Friendship Blog:

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Category: RESOLVING PROBLEMS

Comments (2)

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  1. sheryl says:

    Good advice. I find it so sad and frustrating that there is so much dissension between people when it comes to listening to sensible, evidence-based advice. Unfortunately this issue has caused a huge rift in one of my long-time friendships.

  2. Pink Amy says:

    My friends any I wear masks if we can’t social distance by six feet when we’re outside. If we’re six feet apart, we don’t wear them which is in accordance with what the rules of my state. Does your friend know that you only want to walk with her if she wears a mask?

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