OPINION: Cover Your Damn Face

OPINION: Cover Your Damn Face

You’ll look better this way anyway

People fucking suck at physical distancing. Honestly, tell me right now, can you accurately estimate what one or two metres looks like? If you see someone coming towards you on the footpath, can you safely physically distance? How many times have you passed someone just slightly too close at the supermarket? Or exchanged sheepish grins with someone on a stairwell, or elevator? How about accidentally standing too close to service staff, or having them stand too close to you, because services aren’t usually provided from a metre away?

It’s easy to disregard breaking the rules. Level 2 isn’t lockdown, and apart from some online classes, and having to sign into buildings, not that much has changed. You’re still allowed to get on the rark, to see friends, and to travel anywhere you want to (except for Auckland, lol). Honestly, sometimes it’s hard to take Level 2 guidelines seriously.

Although the risk of contracting Covid-19 is low, it pays to remember that as soon as there is community transmission in the south, there is likely to be a Level 3 lockdown. I don’t know about y’all, but that’s a reality that scares me almost as much as contracting Covid-19 itself. It’s easy to feel helpless, but if everyone follows the Level 2 guidelines, then there’s no need to worry, right? Except that as they currently stand, the physical distancing guidelines are very hard to adhere to in any urban setting.

Every time I’ve left my house, I’ve broken physical distancing rules more times than I can count, and I’m willing to bet the same is true for all of you. It’s not intentional - the footpaths are simply too narrow to accommodate the new regulations. Same with the supermarket aisles, the university corridors, any cafe, restaurant, bar, or retail store. Basically, it’s hard to physically distance anywhere that’s not a field, or in your house. Obviously when not in an enclosed space, such as a building or a vehicle, the risk of transmission is significantly lowered, so you’re probably fine if you’re going on a walk around your neighbourhood. If you’re leaving your house for any other purpose, however, you’re likely to come into close contact with a stranger completely unintentionally. For one thing, it’s hard to begin habitually avoiding people overnight. Think about how many times you’ve reached over someone’s shoulder in the supermarket without even thinking, or been forced to squeeze past occupied tables or benches, or crowds on the footpath. The reality is that the infrastructure of cities is not designed to allow for one or two metres between every person. Physical distancing, on the streets or in any establishment of a city on a normal day, is therefore close to impossible. So how does one get around that?

“At Alert Level 2 the risk of COVID-19 being present in the community is higher. You are encouraged to wear face coverings in situations where physical distancing is not possible, like on public transport or in shops.”

This message comes directly from the New Zealand National Covid-19 website. Notice that the website does not specify a mask, but rather, a face-covering. Essentially, this means that whatever is over your face does not have to adhere to the mask guidelines set by the World Health Organisation. It can be a scarf, a fabric scrap, a ski mask, last night’s undies, or even just your shirt pulled up over your nose - it doesn’t matter.

What does matter, though, is that any face covering, mask or not, reduces the risk of COVID-19 transmission. In light of the difficulty of physical distancing, this means that there’s really no excuse not to wear a face covering. You don’t have to make or buy a mask - just use a scarf, or even just yank your shirt up if you see someone coming towards you. Have fun with it, make a fashion statement or whatever. It’s low effort and maintenance, and it’ll make us all safer.

So please, I’m begging you. On behalf of all extroverts everywhere with unresolved lockdown trauma: don’t send us back into Level 3. Cover your face, wash your hands, and stay safe. Arohanui.

This article first appeared in Issue 16, 2020.
Posted 9:33pm Thursday 27th August 2020 by Naomii Seah.