To wear or not to wear a mask is no longer a matter of debate
My friend Jerry coughed hard when we met for brunch.
"Don't worry, I turned negative two days ago," he remarked, smiling.
I returned his smile but turned away from him as subtly as possible.
"Do you mind if we reschedule our brunch for another time?" I asked politely. "I am not blaming you, but I would have preferred it if you had told me that you had just recovered from COVID-19."
"Oh yes!" he said as he gazed at my KN95 mask and added sarcastically, "I forgot you're still a 'heaven-chosen laborer!
"Jiayou and stay safe!"
We agreed to meet up again two weeks later at the same brunch spot, which also has balcony seating outside.
Jerry had just returned from Toronto, and this was probably the third time that he had caught COVID-19. I am using the term "probably" because he doesn't do the antigen test.
COVID-19, like many other issues, divides us totally.
He has completely ignored it in his daily life, except for the first two or three days when he was down with the virus and needed to stay at home. But Jerry, like many other friends, respects my choice to be cautious and careful and agrees to sit outside while having dinner.
I still wear masks indoors, prefer outside seating whenever feasible, and carry hand sanitizer with me everywhere, but I don't make my friends or colleagues wear masks.
Jerry and I agree on one point: Everyone is accountable for their own health. Or, to put it another way, we don't interfere with each other's choices.
But it is not always easy.
Three weeks ago, a former intern who had escaped COVID-19 asked me if it was okay to wear masks in the office again.
She was a little hesitant, as that would make her the only one at work with a mask.
I shot back, "So what?"
"Would they think I'm a loner or trying to stand out?" she added. She then told me stories she had heard from her friends or read on social media platforms about sticking to wearing masks.
She also felt some kind of peer pressure from her two roommates. They had both caught COVID for the first time and stopped paying attention to it when they recovered.
"That makes me look very anxious, still buying masks and paying all the attention to COVID news," she explained.
"Did either of them say you're overly anxious?" I asked.
"No, but I can sense it."
"Well, you also follow all the news of your idol groups; does that make you stand out?"
"Forget it; you journalists don't understand peer pressure!"
Of course, I do.
I was one of the only two people who wore masks at a recent office meeting. I had switched to KN95 masks and could clearly see some colleagues staring at me.
Did any of them think that I didn't fit in? Maybe.
Last week, I went on an official trip with a few other journalists from other publications. There were a few who were wearing KN95 or some other medical masks, but there were also a good many among both journalists and company officials who were not wearing them. Nobody appears to care if anyone was wearing a mask or not or what kind of mask they were wearing.
That pretty much sums up the scene on the streets of Shanghai. The majority of them fall somewhere in between and are flexible.
Everyone is responsible for his or her own health. My father, who is over 70 and has underlying medical conditions that put him in a high-risk group for catching the virus, remained unfazed when I made him aware of the rising COVID-19 cases in the country.
"Life and death, rich or poor, it's all destined," he said calmly.
"Yes, dad, that's so cool," I shot back. "But this is not the time for philosophy!"
Jiayou, dad, and stay safe!