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Why are masks so divisive?

A psychologist weighs in on why the mask-wearing debate has people so heated.

TAMPA, Fla. — Whether you're sick or not, the CDC recommends you wear a mask over your face while social distancing to limit the spread of coronavirus. 

That's because health experts say the virus is mainly spread from person to person through respiratory droplets.  

Despite all this, the mask debate continues to heat up. 

Just take a quick look at a social media post about masks and you'll see people vigorously arguing why you should or shouldn't wear one.

A psychologist who recently wrote an article on this topic, Seth Gillihan, explains why masks are causing such a visceral reaction in both the people who wear them and the people who refuse to wear them.  

"It's interesting, the CDC told us to wash our hands for 20 seconds and many had no problem.  It recommends using hand sanitizer when you can't wash your hands, again, no issue. Another recommendation is to sanitize frequently touched surfaces and floors, few complained.  But, ask someone to cover their face with a small piece of material and you've got a full-on debate between freedom and health," Gillihan said. "So a mask has become a kind of marker of your team, of what tribe you're on."

Gillihan observed that people are making assumptions that if you wear a mask, you must be a Democrat trying to keep our country closed down, and if you don't wear one you are a Republican who wants everything open and it's worth the risk.  

But, Gillihan said it's time that we all give each other a break and extend a little grace. Unless you know someone personally, you have no idea why they are choosing to wear or not wear a mask, he said.

"We all care about the same things, we just balance those in different ways. We all want to be healthy. We all want to be able to earn a living and have other people be able to do the same and so yes... making fewer assumptions."

Also, keep in mind that people are struggling with masks for reasons that aren't political at all.  Some people have health issues. It's hot and humid in Florida and it can be very uncomfortable for some. For others, it's a struggle when you can't see a person's expressions, especially a smile. 

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