New Yorkers disobey advice and keep masks on

Last weekend I noticed something strange in a local park. A horde of New Yorkers enthusiastically wearing masks in the early summer sunshine.

This wouldn’t have looked strange two weeks ago, as New York is one of the places where the population (eventually) enthusiastically embraced indoor and outdoor mask wear.But last week, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that fully vaccinated people You can drop the mask Any setting as permitted by local law. New York After that, he withdrew his mask mandate for being vaccinated in most public spaces.

Most people over the age of 16 I know are “double jabs” and children over the age of 12 are now being shot, but New York City 49% of adults There have been two shots so far.

Still, most people on the street are still voluntarily sports masks. The same is true for shops and restaurants. And when I voted recently among friends on Sunday’s brunch, there was only one guest who proudly declared he had stopped wearing masks outside — “normalizing” society. for.

Everyone else was somehow clinging to those pieces of cloth. “I’m not ready to go out without a mask — not yet,” declared one guest working on TV.

why? The confusion about the intersection of federal and state rules may explain this in part. Some states have officially adopted new CDC guidelines. Others are not.Some retailers such as Walmart, Costco And Trader Joe’sAlthough the mask obligation has been withdrawn, unvaccinated customers may still “request” to wear the mask. Others retain their mission.

Meanwhile, the National Nurses United recently took the unusual step of asking people to ignore the message from the CDC. Bonnie Castillo, Secretary-General of the National Nurses United, said:And the New York Times Informal survey Only 5% of epidemiologists predicted that masks would no longer be needed by the summer. The most anticipated mask wear is valid for another year, at least at internal events (which may indicate widespread opposition to the CDC guidelines).

But medical risk is not the only factor. Anthropologists have long argued, initially based on research conducted in Asia on epidemics such as SARS: Wear a mask During a pandemic, not only can the movement of bacteria be physically stopped, but it is also beneficial because the mask is a powerful social ritual and symbol.

At the individual level, the habit of wearing a mask is a psychological prompt about the need to change behavior. In group settings, the mask shows loyalty to a shared set of citizen values ​​and responsibilities. In the days of playing cards, wearing a mask also became a political symbol.Many Trump supporters refused to wear masks, so accepting the fabric Signal support For more progressive and liberal values.

Of course, politics has changed now. It was US President Joe Biden’s own CDC who said he didn’t need a mask. But other psychological problems have not disappeared. Wearing a mask is a gesture that reassures nervous people a little more.It feels like again Sign of respect For a wider group, given that it is impossible to know who else is vaccinated or who is scared.

“I have been vaccinated and I am no longer wearing a mask,” he tweeted. Patrick Chovaneck, Economic Advisor for Silvercrest Asset Management. But he added: Maybe they don’t have a second shot. Maybe they are in good health. Maybe it’s a habit. Or it takes time to build confidence. “

This sympathy for masks may sound strange to people living in places like the United Kingdom where they were slow to accept voluntary mask wear. And as vaccination rates rise, New Yorkers’ resistance to unmasking slowly disappears, and more people take off their masks — and summer temperatures make the face cover stuffy.

But in the meantime, there are two conclusions we can draw. First, we show what a adaptable cultural pattern can look like. A year ago, I thought, like many, individualist New Yorkers would find it difficult to accept masks because their practices are related to the following collectivist societies: It was. Part of Asia.. I was wrong.

Second, the reason New Yorkers first adopted these masks was that, contrary to expectations, the government’s message not only conveyed a sense of shame about the breach, but also the impression (or illusion) of the individual institution. I think it reflects the facts.

New Yorkers have come to believe that wearing a mask is something anyone can do to reduce risk for themselves and others. It empowered them and provided a way to regain a little control in times of turmoil and horror.

Therefore, I feel almost uneasy to quit now. Here is a lesson. For example, when it comes to climate change, if the government wants to guide people to better behaviour, it is important to keep the message simple and, most importantly, to encourage individuals to feel the power to act. It’s a good idea to remember long after the mask was in the trash.

Follow Gillian on Twitter @gilliantett Please email her gillian.tett@

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New Yorkers disobey advice and keep masks on

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