Despite most of Ontario’s remaining COVID-19 mask mandates being lifted many people still won’t be able to remove their masks.
Take Karen Kevins from Toronto, for example. Removing her mask seemed like the easiest thing to do, until it wasn’t.
“I hated wearing a mask,” says the 35-year-old marketing specialist. “I was looking forward to Premier Doug Ford ending the mask mandate so I could breathe again and show off my smiling face.”
But a problem occurred when Kevins felt an actual physical pain after removing her mask for the first time. She describes it as a sick feeling in her stomach, a headache, weak legs, dizziness, a dry mouth, and even a runny nose.
After a barrage of medical tests Kevins confirmed her worst fear. She didn’t have Covid-19 but rather the new disease that experts are calling ‘Phantom Mask Syndrome.’
“I had taken it off – but it still felt like it was on. Like how people who lose their limbs in an accident sometimes still sort of feel them. I thought I had COVID,” she tells Woke Up! from the comfort of her Zoom screen in a swanky downtown Toronto condo – wearing a mask.
“Now, I sleep and shower in my mask. I even have a mask with a flap so that I can eat and drink, but I haven’t been doing much of that lately. I just can’t take it off without feeling some type of shock to my system.”
MASK TO THE FUTURE
Although it may sound like something out of science fiction, a Kafka novel, or a bad comedy sketch on SNL, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) is seeing more and more cases of people like Kevins with Phantom Mask Syndrome.
The term was first coined on social media and has spread faster than covid at a vaccine clinic. Victims of the malady either think they’re masked even when they aren’t and/or can’t bring themselves to physically remove their mask without psychological side effects which can manifest as real physical symptoms. They also often forget it’s on. It’s a modern day plague that experts say is akin to Stockholm Syndrome, but for facial coverings.
“People have been traumatized for the past two years,” says a Toronto social worker from CAMH who asked her name not be used. “The mask has provided a false comfort, which we now know was likely only that – a comfort.”
Phantom Mask Syndrome is said by medical experts to be worst in major metropolitan cities, left leaning provinces and blue states in the US.
TWITTER DOCTORS – HEAL THY SELF
Social media hasn’t been helping the problem either. ‘Twitter Doctors’, as they’ve come to be known, have continually promoted masking, despite very little, if any, evidence of them doing a damn thing to stop the so-called spread of the virus.
These ‘Twitter Doctors’ are often paid big bonuses on top of their regular salaries to use social media to parrot government and media pandemic messaging.
“In fact,” counters the contrarian social worker, “people wearing masks are getting COVID at an alarming rate. It’s a seasonal cold. A mask isn’t going to stop that. More than 150 studies prove that.”
One of those studies was conducted by Canada’s University of Waterloo. It found that commonly worn cloth and surgical masks are only roughly 10 per cent efficient at blocking exhaled aerosols. The hot and suffocating KN94 and KN95 masks may be slightly better but only marginally – when they are fit tested and worn for only short periods of time under sterile conditions.
The problem, of course, is how will Kevins and many others like her finally be able to remove their masks for good?
“I predict masks are going to be the next pandemic,” says Kevins, who lives alone. “I don’t want to wear one, but I honestly can’t take it off.”
MASK HIVE MIND
Kevins adds that while she’s looked online for support groups, she continually hits a dead end with people telling her there’s nothing wrong with wearing a mask.
“Their advice just doesn’t feel right,” she laments.
“The COVID psychological warfare on the human race is unprecedented,” adds our secret social worker.
“People have no idea what “saving granny” was really all about, and what it’s doing to their mental health. This is only the beginning.”