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Gina Smith is in Hong Kong.March 30 at 4:46 PM

Today makes nine weeks without school and office here in Hong Kong. Nine weeks of social distancing. 

Nine weeks in, the grocery stores are fully stocked once more. You can get anything again, even toilet paper. Even masks. And that’s what I want to talk a bit about right now: Masks.

A few points:

1.) Many of you have emailed me articles about how masks don’t really protect you. Pardon me, but you guys miss the point. You don’t wear a mask to protect yourself. You wear one to protect others. As a courtesy. In turn, others wear masks to protect you. It’s a good tradeoff.

2.) Masks do protect you in some important ways, however. For one, masks keep you from touching your face. And yes, it’s true that surgical masks and ill-fitting N95 masks provide imperfect protection, but they do provide some protection. If you were thirsty, would you rather have half a glass of water or none at all? 

3.) Soon you will have masks in stores, too. I suggest you buy both surgical masks and N95s when that happens. The surgical masks are for protecting others. The N95s are for you — for when public contact is unavoidable (the grocery store). Be forewarned, though. N95s are hard to wear and hard to breathe in. You don’t want to spend the day in one if you don’t have to.

4.) Yes, I know masks look weirder to you in the US than they do to us here. (That’s because folks in Asia wear them whenever they are sick. Again, it’s a courtesy.) You will get over your mask shyness, I promise. In fact, soon it will look very strange when someone isn’t wearing a mask in public. 

This will be over a lot sooner if people practice stringent social distancing and, once they can, wear masks to protect others from asymptomatic spread. That will happen. And when it does, we’ll all be closer to coming out on the other end of this.

Stay safe, everyone.