If you think that 2020 is stressful for you, imagine working long shifts as a healthcare professional during the coronavirus crisis, only to have some random person shame and insult you for wearing a mask. In the middle of a pandemic. That’s bound to get your blood boiling, isn’t it?

Imgur user Toulouselachat was yelled at while she was at a gas station for being a “bleepin’ mask-wearing libtard” and penned a comeback online. Her post got more than 4.1k upvotes on the image sharing site and the support of plenty of internet users. The nurse sees wearing masks as a health issue, not a political one, and wants others to think the same way.

Bored Panda reached out to Dr. Peter Chin-Hong, an infectious disease specialist at the University of California, San Francisco, to talk about why some Americans don’t wear face masks, what can be done on a national level to convince them to change their minds, and how this is a medical (not a political) issue. “The virus doesn’t care how you vote—it just wants to get in your nose or mouth!” Scroll down for our full chat with the expert, dear Pandas.

A nurse shared how a random person yelled at her at a gas station because she was wearing a face mask

She penned a response after going back home

“It is really a medical and public health issue that has nothing to do with politics”

“Masks have become politicized in the USA, in the same way that other therapeutics like hydroxychloroquine have been. This is parallel to how it is viewed by some political leaders in Brazil as both brands of leaders have emphasized not wearing masks in public and have relentlessly promoted the use of hydroxychloroquine as COVID-19 therapy despite much scientific evidence to the contrary,” Dr. Chin-Hong went into detail.

“Much of the leadership style in these two countries have been famously anti-science and masking falls into line this way. Masks have essentially become a partisan issue in the US with more Republicans favoring not wearing masks, although this is softening. Not wearing masks have been heralded as a personal freedom issue, which is disheartening, since it is really a medical and public health issue that has nothing to do with politics.”

“We need a national, not a regional approach”

We were also interested to find out the infectious disease expert’s take on what can be done to help convince mask-skeptics to change their beliefs. “Ultimately, the scientific literature supports the use of policy with enforcement if we would like more people to wear masks,” he said.

“So far, this has been patchwork in the US with some states having orders and many states without such mandates. We need a national, not a regional approach.”

Appealing to patriotism could change people’s minds

He continued: “Other interventions that have been suggested include appealing to patriotism (like how masking was messaged in the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic in the US), more marketing (public service announcement blitz, more endorsement from celebrities like Lady Gaga and others, branding of masks by fashion houses and sports teams), and community cultural change. In the US, more women than men wear masks and public messaging must also include interventions aimed specifically at men.”

Dr. Chin-Hong added: “Masks are not a political issue. We should continue to think of them as a medical intervention that is safe, scientifically based, and protects our community and ourselves.”

Here’s how people reacted after they read the nurse’s story

Some US states are reopening while others have paused loosening lockdown regulations because of an increase in the number of infections. Meanwhile, states like California now require people to wear face masks or other coverings in most public spaces. This is done to reduce the spread of the coronavirus. However, some people see this as an attempt to control them and infringe on their freedom.

Right now, both the World Health Organization, as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend wearing masks for the general public. If you have a good memory, you’ll remember that both the WHO and the CDC said the exact opposite early on in the pandemic. It’s this flip-flopping that’s in part responsible for there being mixed messages about mask-wearing in the US.

So why did both organizations recommend the public not wear masks before and why did they change their recommendations? According to UC San Francisco epidemiologist George Rutherford, there was a concern that the limited supply of surgical masks and N95 respirators should be saved for healthcare workers. However, he said that “we should have told people to wear cloth masks right off the bat.” However, hindsight is 20/20 and it’s always easy to criticize decisions when looking back on them.