The 2020 Mask Debate: Here Are The Extreme Reactions To Mask Requirements

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Mary Margaret Olohan Social Issues Reporter
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  • Americans have become polarized over wearing masks during the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention only says that masks must be worn in “public settings,” but doesn’t specify further.
  • Reactions and enforcement of masks range from assaults on grocery store employees who enforce mask rules, protests, requiring Americans to wear masks outside, and more. 

Americans have developed polarized takes on the importance of masks during the coronavirus pandemic, ranging from those who insist masks should be worn at all times to those who assert that masks are a form of effeminacy.

Guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), meanwhile, recommends that Americans use face coverings in “public settings,” but doesn’t specify anything beyond that. (RELATED: Alabama Becomes Latest State To Enact Mandatory Mask Order)

“You could spread COVID-19 to others even if you do not feel sick,” the guidance says. “The cloth face cover is meant to protect other people in case you are infected.”

“Everyone should wear a cloth face cover in public settings and when around people who don’t live in your household, especially when other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain,” it continues.

The CDC did not immediately respond to a request from the Daily Caller News Foundation for further clarity.

Meanwhile, Americans’ have had extreme reactions over wearing — or not wearing — masks.

Mandatory Masks

Over 20 states require that masks be worn when in public, while other states specify that masks must be worn while outdoors. California, Oregon, Washington, New Jersey and several other states require masks to be worn in outdoor public spaces.

“When in doubt, regardless of what the order says to the letter of the law, put on a face covering if you’re going out,” Democratic New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said during a recent briefing. “It’s literally that simple.”

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat, said in a Monday Facebook post: “Today I am sounding the alarm: we are at risk of COVID-19 getting out of control in Oregon. Each of us needs to take immediate action to slow the spread of this disease. Face coverings are required in some outdoor public spaces and indoor social get-togethers are capped at 10.”

A mandate to wear masks in public in Kentucky has led to a legal fight. Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear filed a 48-page filing Tuesday in Franklin Circuit Court against Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron, asking the court to uphold the mask order, among other restrictions.

“This is another example of Gov. Beshear trying to circumvent standard legal procedure,” Cameron said at a hearing Thursday, according to the Lexington Herald Leader. “He tried a similar maneuver already, and it was quickly struck down by a Court of Appeals Judge.”

And Republican Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp filed a lawsuit over Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms’s mask mandate as well as other restrictions, according to the AJC.

“This lawsuit is on behalf of the Atlanta business owners and their hardworking employees who are struggling to survive during these difficult times,” Kemp said in a statement, the publication reports. “These men and women are doing their very best to put food on the table for their families while local elected officials shutter businesses and undermine economic growth.”

In some cities, Americans face fines for not wearing masks. Authorities in California announced in early July that those who do not follow Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s mask order will be fined. In West Hollywood, Californians face a fine of $250 plus a $50 fee for a first time offense.

“Our last option was to conduct enforcement by issuing an Administrative Citation, but the risk to Community health is too great,” Capt. Edward Ramirez of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department’s West Hollywood Station said, according to CNN.

Authorities in Florida’s Miami-Dade County have also promised that those who do not wear face masks will also be fined.

“We’re going to put a heck of a lot of people out there,” Mayor Carlos Gimenez told commissioners, Fox 6 Now reported Friday. “Our people are going to go everywhere.”


Grocery store and restaurant employees have been attacked for enforcing mask rules.

A Service Employees International Union survey found that almost half of McDonald’s workers surveyed who enforced mask-wearing procedures were verbally or physically assaulted by customers who disagreed with these rules, according to Business Insider. (RELATED: REPORT: Survey Finds Hundreds Of McDonald’s Workers Have Been Assaulted By Anti-Mask Customers)

“Throughout the pandemic, McDonald’s has failed to protect us from COVID-19,” Maira Villaseñor, a McDonald’s worker, told Business Insider, “Now it’s asking us to police a culture war that’s not in our job description and that we’re not paid to do.”

In May, police arrested a man in Michigan for allegedly wiping his nose and mouth on a store clerk’s shirt after the store clerk told him he needed to wear a mask in the store, ABC News reported.

The New York City Police Department reported that two men attacked an Asian woman who was wearing a mask in New York City’s Chinatown in February and called her “diseased, ABC News reported.

In April, police arrested a woman for allegedly attacking an employee at a Michigan grocery store after the woman was ordered to leave the store for not wearing  a mask. The woman was later charged with assault and battery, according to ABC.


Many Americans have rallied throughout the United States in protest against mask requirements since the beginning of the pandemic in March. Many of these anti-mask protestors insist that mask requirements violate their constitutional rights.

A protester holds up a sign protesting wearing a mask at the Texas State Capital building on April 18, 2020 in Austin, Texas. (Sergio Flores/Getty Images)

Research conducted by researchers from Middlesex University London in the United Kingdom and the Mathematical Science Research Institute in Berkeley, California, found that the mask requirement “has a larger effect on men than on women.”

“Men more than women agree that wearing a face covering is shameful, not cool, a sign of weakness, and a stigma; and these gender differences also mediate gender differences intentions to wear a face covering,” co-authors Valerio Capraro and Hélène Barcelo wrote, according to Market Watch.

“It’s muzzling yourself, it looks weak, especially for men,” a man told an AZ Central reporter in May.

A woman wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat sticks her tongue out of a damaged mask as demonstrators protest during a “Reopen Maryland” rally outside the State House in Annapolis, Maryland, calling on the state to lift stay-at-home orders due to the coronavirus pandemic, April 18, 2020. (SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)

Mask Shaming

Others insist that failure to wear a mask demonstrates a selfishness and a lack of empathy for one’s fellow Americans. (RELATED: ‘You Can Take Your Mask Mandate And Shove It Right Up Your Ass’: Dan Bongino Vows To Defy Mask Order)

“The emerging scientific data is clear: wearing a mask doesn’t only protect others, it also significantly reduces your own risk of getting Coronavirus,” Democratic Colorado Gov. Jared Polis wrote in a Sunday Facebook post. “So if you’re a selfish bastard and wearing a mask to protect others isn’t enough of a reason to do so, then maybe protecting yourself is?”

Those who support masks have posted photographs of people not wearing masks to social media. For example, Republican Texas Sen. Ted Cruz was photographed not wearing a mask on a plane while holding a cup of coffee.

“For those trying to argue that he was drinking, it’s not hard to have a mask on and undo one side to take a sip then put it back on. Most people take their time drinking coffee,” Hosseh Enad, a staffer for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, tweeted along with the photo.

Cashiers wearing protective masks work in a grocery store in the Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn on April 2, 2020 in New York City. New York City is in its second week of lock down due to the coronavirus. (Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)

Clandestine Parties

Meanwhile, people gather in secret without masks.

Underground parties have been taking place in New York City every weekend with no regard for social distancing or mask compliance, despite the city’s social distancing requirements, the Gothamist reported Thursday. Young people alert each other to these parties through WhatsApp group chats and through texts.

At one party in Bryant Park, the publication reports, one partygoer told others that they could bring as many as 90 people, saying: “Don’t share this information on SOCIAL MEDIA! This is a private space and we are interested in no drama policy. PLEASE SHARE IT IN PRIVATE MSGS.”

“I understand for so many younger adults it has been a really difficult time cooped up,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat, said Monday, according to the publication. “But we’ve got to keep telling everyone, particularly younger adults, how important it is to stick to what has worked: the social distancing, the face coverings, getting tested.”

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