Gov. Mike DeWine of Ohio had included a face-covering mandate as part of plans to reopen businesses, but he changed course. “It became clear to me that that was just a bridge too far… People were not going to accept the government telling them what to do.”
“Seriously people- STOP BUYING MASKS!” U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams tweeted on Feb. 29.
By Rick Rojas
The New York Times | May 03, 2020 | 9:08 PM
As the nation edges away from lockdown and people once again share public spaces in the middle of a pandemic, wearing a face mask — or refusing to — has become a flashpoint in a moment when civic rules are being rewritten, seemingly on the fly.
The result has been dirty looks, angry words, raw emotions and, at times, confrontations that have escalated into violence.
In Flint, Michigan, a security guard at a Family Dollar store was fatally shot on Friday afternoon after an altercation that the guard’s wife told The New York Times had occurred over a customer refusing to wear a face covering, which is required in Michigan in any enclosed public space.
Police officials declined to comment on details of the case, but are still looking for the suspect, who fled. A vigil was planned for Sunday night, and a news conference for Monday.
In Stillwater, Oklahoma, an emergency proclamation mandating face coverings led to so much verbal abuse in its first three hours on Friday — and a threat involving a gun — that officials swiftly amended it. Masks became encouraged, not required.
“The city of Stillwater has attempted to keep people safe by the simple requirement to wear a face covering to protect others,” Norman McNickle, Stillwater’s city manager, said in a statement posted on the city’s website. “It is unfortunate and distressing that those who refuse and threaten violence are so self-absorbed as to not follow what is a simple show of respect and kindness to others.”
The decision not to wear a mask has, for some, become a rebellion against what they regard as an incursion on their personal liberties. For many others, the choice is a casual one more about convenience than politics. The choice can also be a reflection of vanity, or of not understanding when or where to wear one. Some people said they found masks uncomfortable, and thus a nuisance they were unwilling to tolerate. Others were skeptical how much difference they made outside on a sunny day.
“I hate it,” groused Ammiel Richards, 27, who said that he had twice been ejected from New York City buses for not wearing a mask.
Even as governors imposed orders and public health experts dispensed their professional guidance, the effort to thwart the coronavirus nevertheless amounted to a grand national experiment in cooperation that hinged on the individual decisions of millions.
Gov. Mike DeWine of Ohio had included a face-covering mandate as part of plans to reopen businesses, but he changed course. “It became clear to me that that was just a bridge too far,” DeWine, a Republican, said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.” “People were not going to accept the government telling them what to do.”
As many states have moved toward reopening but have also set their own pace in doing so, an elaborate patchwork of orders and restrictions has emerged that differs from state to state, even municipality to municipality.
Those guidelines vary just as much with masks, which public health officials have encouraged people to wear, along with adhering to social distancing measures. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises the “use of simple cloth face coverings to slow the spread of the virus and help people who may have the virus and do not know it from transmitting it to others.”
The shift toward reopening businesses reflects a larger recalibration in the balance that officials have tried to strike between aggressively curbing the virus and avoiding further economic devastation.
The allure of pleasant weather in much of the country on Sunday drew many people from their isolation to beaches, parks, walking trails or anywhere else that was not their home.
In Brooklyn, New York, most of the people spending the afternoon in Prospect Park wore masks. Others had them — but they were pulled down to their chin, or in their hands for strategic deployment.
Along a segment of Atlanta’s BeltLine, a walking and biking trail cutting through the city, David Johnson wore a colorful masked pulled up to his nose as he rode his bike. He noticed that it looked like more people had their faces covered. “People give you the stink if you don’t have a mask on,” he said.
Still, that was not enough of a deterrent, it seemed, for the many others without one.
Jay Sokloski sipped beer with a friend on the outskirts of the BeltLine and said he did not feel comfortable in a mask, nor entirely see the need for one.
“I just don’t see the big thing about it,” he said. “If I were riding an elevator for 12 hours a day with people coughing and sneezing, I’d probably feel different. But we’re outside, so it’s fine with me.”