Likewise, people laughed at Trump's suggestion that they wear a scarf for protection against the coronavirus. The same people now wear scarves, or face masks.
OK, masks really aren't that effective at protecting you from SARS-Cov2. The virus is small enough it can travel through the pores of pretty much anything except something like an N95 mask. Toss in that it needs to be worn properly to offer any protection: cover the face, not touched, and cleaned every day.
Most of the masks being sold come with disclaimers that they are not medical-grade. Sellers can't make medical or health claim that the masks offer protection unless they are medical grade.
Lots of debate about the utility of wearing masks among the science crowd. And watch the video before making fun of people who aren't wearing masks. WHO said that they aren't helpful. CDC "recommends" them. It reminds me of this interaction from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy:
BARMAN: You really think the world's going to end?The reality is that there isn't a vaccine, and there probably won't be one out there anytime soon. There has been research on a coronavirus vaccine since the 2002-04 SARS outbreak. The optimistic timeframe is that there will be a vaccine available in another 12-18 months. There is also talk about "Social Distancing" lasting until the end of 2022.
(Ford nods yes) Shouldn't we lie down or put a bag over our heads or something?
FORD: If you want.
BARMAN: Will it help?
FORD: Not really.
And a cure. Just say "hydroxychloroquine", the medicine Trump has a fixation on. But it's a good example of the search for a "cure". It is indeed a drug that has gotten a lot of scrutiny in the medical world. Like the other cures out there, there is a lot of disagreement about its efficacy for treating SARS-CoV2. In other words, there also isn't a cure out there either.
The upshot of all this is that unless you are indoors, the masks are superfluous. Indoors, the masks are helpful, but don't kid yourself about getting protection from one. The symbolism is that you are doing something. I feel the same way Ford does about all this. But I don't have a Sub-Etha Sens-O-Matic to hitch a ride with.
So, I go with the flow since I have the luxury to do so. But I understand the frustrations of those who don't. You have my sympathy.