Due to the unfortunate impact of COVID-19 on communities around the world, many have taken the initiative of wearing masks on their faces in an effort to protect themselves from infection. From P100 masks that effectively filter everything but air itself to DIY fabric masks that try to get something done, the protective solutions take many forms. Regardless of the variety of choices, though, many believe that wearing masks in the casual sense of daily life will become a thing of the past once the threat of the new disease subsides. This likely won't be true; masks are here to stay.
They Stayed in Japan
Several news outlets have been comparing the COVID-19 pandemic to the Spanish Flu pandemic of the 1920s. In response to the Spanish Flu, the Japanese government recommended that its citizens wear surgical masks in order to prevent the spread of the virus. The recommendations were followed rather well, and a considerable amount of the population regularly wear masks to this day. The masks changed Japanese culture, and the perception of mask-wearing is positive in Japan: it's seen as a benefit of, and respect to, the community, rather than a means of anonymity when performing suspicious activities as it's perceived in the West.
It'll Catch in the West, Slowly
Because mask-wearing was met with so much aversion in the West, for one reason or another, I won't go so far as to say that the masks will be worn with the same diligence once the pandemic subsides, but I'm certain masks won't disappear. And, I'm sure we'll see a trend in casual mask-wearing for a variety of reasons.
Seasonal Flu is a Seasonal Threat
There have been claims that the seasonal flu is a greater threat to public health than COVID-19. If such a claim were true, then masks should be worn as another preventative measure of the flu's spread, instead of relying on a seasonal vaccine as our sole defense.
Masks are more approachable and accessible than the seasonal flu vaccine, which makes this layer of protection for the public much more expansive and responsive than herd immunity that may result from flu vaccination. While the CDC does not recommend that the public wears masks unless they show symptoms of the flu, it's very likely that masks, in tandem with our current measures, would still help to decrease seasonal flu infection rates.
It's Becoming Fashion
In some cultures in the East, most notably those of the millennials, masks have revealed themselves as articles of fashion. Face masks with interesting designs, including Hello Kitty, Camo, and Skulls, have arisen on the faces of many people.
The West is also slowly adopting masks. Many fashion designers decided to feature masks in their outfits for Paris Fashion Week. This could very well be a short trend in response to a very rare event, but the impact that this pandemic and the looming threat of climate change have could surely propel a new wave of mask-wearing in fashion.
To say that masks will not leave Western cultures is certainly speculative, but, given the impact of natural threats to the status quo such as pandemics and climate change, mask-wearing without a doubt has a chance of becoming common.