No one has ever claimed masks are guaranteed to stop the spread but the more people wear them the more the risk is reduced, it is as simple as that. They're not counter productive, they're a risk reducer.
It's 90 days without a visa. You then have to leave for 180 days. That's your lot as far as travel goes in the Schengen area. The 90 days can be split.
Brexit hasn't done any favours to those looking to travel in retirement.
I like that area too but it's warmer in the south during winter.
I spent a winter month in Cabo Roig and loved the walking along the coast there. Found some nice smaller towns on the Mar Menor, closer to Murcia airport than Alicante.