More answers to your COVID-19 questions

ABC News chief medical correspondent Jen Ashton and our panel of experts weigh in on your questions regarding who needs to wear masks and if businesses should require customers to enter with a mask.
6:58 | 07/10/20

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Transcript for More answers to your COVID-19 questions
Now, over the course of the pandemic, the messaging and the recommendations around face masks have definitely changed, but conflicting opinions remain. Several months have now passed and the use of face coverings is still up for debate -- to wear a mask or to not wear a mask. Our country is divided. Now for our great mask debate, we have Dr. Jen Ashton, along with our panel of experts, director of the Johns Hopkins Bierman institute of bioethics, Jeffrey Kahn. Arev ashes martin. And ABC anchor Dan Harris. Welcome to all of you. Jeff, I'm going to kick it off with you. When the coronavirus hit, we remember public health officials were adamant that the public didn't need to wear masks. We have learned a lot since do you understand why people are distrustful now of these recommendations and how do we restore faith in the recommendations and the leaders? I think you hit it on the head when you said we know a lot more now. So early in the pandemic, there was a thought that you knew when you were sick, you had symptoms and then it would be responsible to wear a mask to protect other people. Now we know a lot more. People are infected before they have symptoms and can spread the virus not knowing that they're sick. And so I'ts important to wear a mask to protect other people and that's very different matter, and I think as the science evolves, the recommendations will evolve and that's the situation we're in. And that certainly makes a lot of sense. Now, Dan, we know the recommendation is to wear a mask. But we also know that we're seeing our leaders not doing it, how much does that play into people making their decisions? I think it's multifactorial, I suspect that there's an influence for some at the top aren't wearing masks for sure. There are other factors the mixed messages that were sent at the beginning, there's the sheer inconvenience of it in the heat and the fact that it fogs your glasses, also the fact that for in many communities of color, in particular for black men, there's a fear that if you're wearing mask you're more likely to be racial profiling. So my approach to this is to use a little bit of empathy, to try to understand some of the reasons why people aren't doing this. I'm pro-mask but I'm also very skeptical that finger wagging and shame is going to be the way to get people to comply here. Totally agree with that. Areva, we know different regions have different rules on whether or not you have to wear a mask, where does the responsibility lie, in the individual or law enforcement to enforce those measures that may be in place? Law enforcement gets involved in terms of enforcing other laws -- wearing a seat belt, so I think law enforcement plays a role also individuals have a responsibility to make sure they're protecting others, particularly those in vulnerable populations, elderly people. When you wear a mask you're saying to those vulnerable populations in particular that you matter, and I think that's very important. Yeah, and Dr. Jen, for people who don't wear masks, among them, they say it may provide a false sense of security, is there any truth to that in terms of why one wouldn't wear a mask? In terms of a false sense of security it's not air tight, there's a difference between wearing a mask like an n95 respirator or a surgical mask when you're in a hospital setting versus out in the community. As you know, we always talk about risk versus benefit. It's low risk to put on some kind of face covering and we have seen new data that suggests there is a very high benefit for the people around us and potentially ourselves as well. So that's how you should think about these things medically. Medically and there's the ethical debate, Jeff, if wearing a mask, putting it like this, if wearing mask protects other people from contacting covid-19, ethically, isn't it simply the right thing to do? There's an old saying that your freedom to swing your arm ends at the tip of my nose, so that's a way of saying, you can exercise your freedom until your freedom harms other people. And I think that's what we're talking about here, that wearing a mask prevents you from harming other people, and that's when we have a different conversation about what governments and our leaders and law enforcement, if laws say so, look, you need to wear mask, and that's not just the responsible thing to do, it's what you must do, and I think we may be really at a time when we need to hear that from our leadership. Areva, businesses opening up across the country. Do you think it's okay legally to deny service from customers if they're not wearing mask and can employers force their employees to wear masks? Yes to both of them. I think employers can enforce their employees to wear masks in the same way they're required to wear certain uniforms and adhere to other standards in the workplace. And businesses, private businesses can require that people wear masks if they want to enter that business, just like no shirt, no shoes, no service policies. The mask policy is no different. If you don't want to wear a mask and go into a particular store, then guess what, you have the right to go another store that perhaps doesn't have that policy, so businesses can help slow the spread by enacting these commonsense policies that we keep hearing from health experts that will help slow the spread of this virus. I think businesses should be doing it. Hats off to Starbucks who now say they'll do it nationwide. Dan, I'm curious, as a country and a culture, we're certainly enamored with appearances, do you believe rejection of masks is related to identity? This is all tangled up in masculinity, unfortunately, that we're seeing at least one study that shows men are more reluctant to wear masks. It goes back to individualism, freedom, flouting the rules, not being told what to do. Not feeling like it makes you look weak if you're wearing a mask. And I've been thinking about the fact that we may be at a moment where we need to re-think what masculinity is, and reframe this -- you doing what you need to do to protect the people around you. That I think is an important way to re-frame this. That's the most important to consider about to wear a mask or not. Thank you all for this very important and enlightening conversation. I hope everyone was listening.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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