(CNN) Most Americans have never had to wear a mask for their health before, let alone while they shop for groceries or go for a run.
So, even as businesses or states increasingly require them, rebellion is natural — to a degree, says Dr. David Aronoff, director of Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s Division of Infectious Diseases and professor of medicine.
But he urges Americans to think of the mask guidance not as forced conformity, but as a necessary act of solidarity: Wearing a cloth mask could stop seemingly healthy people from infecting others with coronavirus if they’re asymptomatic.
“We’re all hopeful that this pandemic disappears,” he said. “Then we can stop doing as much risk mitigation. But for now, we really depend on the trust and kindness of others to protect our wellbeing. And that’s part of being an American.”
Some think it infringes on their civil liberties
Even though wearing masks isn’t compulsory in much of the US, adhering to these rules may feel like, to some, forfeiture of their freedoms.
People naturally rebel when they’re told what to do, even if the measures could protect them, said Steven Taylor, a clinical psychologist and author of “The Psychology of Pandemics.”
“People value their freedoms,” he said. “They may become distressed or indignant or morally outraged when people are trying to encroach on their freedoms.”
Aronoff compared the mask guidance to the ban on smoking cigarettes in restaurants or schools.
“There are rules about not smoking in enclosed restaurants and bars because that smoke can be deleterious to someone else’s health,” he said. “Now we’re in a situation where, if I’m infected with the Covid-19 virus, my breath can be lethal to someone else.”
But while that legislation is permanent, wearing masks won’t be, Aronoff said.
But to vocal opponents, even temporary guidance is too much of a concession.
In Michigan, where up to 700 protesters recently descended on the state Capitol to protest stay-at-home orders, masks are required in stores and businesses. This month, police say a Michigan Family Dollar security guard was shot and killed by customers who he’d asked to wear masks before entering the store.