When Joe Glickman is shopping, he puts on an N95 mask and a cloth mask on it. Then he wears diving goggles.
He has been using this safety protocol for 14 months and it has not changed after contracting the coronavirus in November. Not even after finishing the vaccination earlier this month. And although President Joe Biden said on Thursday (13) that vaccinated people do not need to wear a mask, Glickman says he will stick to the habit.
In fact, he said he planned to go to the supermarket with two masks and glasses for at least five years.
As a combination of public health recommendations and pandemic fatigue leads more Americans to skip the masks they’ve been wearing for over a year, Glickman is one of those who says they will continue to walk away. cover the face in public indefinitely.
For people like him, a combination of anxiety, inaccurate information about new variants of the virus and the emergence of a large anti-vaccine faction means life without a mask is on hold – perhaps forever.
“I have no problem being one of those people,” said Glickman, who is a professional photographer and musician from Albany, New York. “But I don’t think I’ll be the only one.”
Whether made of colored fabric or polypropylene, the masks have emerged as a dystopian political point of interest during the pandemic. A map of states that have mandated its use closely matches the vote for president of the people of those states.
Protesters held rallies last year against official demands to wear masks, set fires to burn them in protest, and shouted loudly when confronted not to wear them in supermarkets.
As more Americans are vaccinated and restrictions related to the virus are relaxed, masks are at the center of a runoff in the cultural struggle in the country. This time around, people who prefer to continue to cover their faces have become the target of public anger.
In interviews, those vaccinated who continue to wear masks said they were under increasing pressure, especially in recent days; friends and relatives asked them to relax, or even suggested that they were paranoid. On a recent trip to the market, Glickman said he was confronted by a man who entered without a mask.
“I am confused,” TV presenter Dan Rather wrote on Twitter last week, as backlash against those who remain in mask escalated on the platform. “Why do people have to worry if someone wants to wear a mask on the street?”
Following the latest guidelines from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), at least 20 states have rejected orders to wear a mask or given guidelines exempting vaccinated people from wearing protection. Other states, including New York, have said they are reviewing the rules.
But for some people, the new freedom won’t convince them to show their face anytime soon. After a year, they say they have gotten used to the masks and are happy with the added safety they offer.
The day after the CDC announcement, George Jones, 82, a retired postman, was sunbathing outside the General Grant Houses, where he lives in Harlem, New York, and said his blue surgical mask – though uncomfortable and inconvenient – would continue. used for at least one year.
“I’m in no rush, why should I be?” Said Jones, who finished the vaccination a month and a half ago. Until New York City reaches a higher level of immunization – only 40% are fully immunized – he thinks it is too risky to go without the mask. “Being alive is the most important thing, it matters. I’m old, but I would like to stay here as long as possible.”
On Broadway, a group of boys walk past him without a mask. Jones said he understands: “Young people think they’re invulnerable – and I hope they are.”
Public health data shows that masks and social distancing have likely had a large positive impact, in addition to slowing the spread of Covid-19. While more than 34,000 adults died from the flu (influenza) during the 2018-19 season, deaths this year are expected to number in the hundreds, according to CDC data.
Leni Cohen, 51, a retired kindergarten teacher in New York City with a compromised immune system, said she plans to continue wearing a mask when helping as a substitute teacher. But what she would like most is that her students remain masked.
“Young children are adorable, but they quickly share their secretions,” Cohen wrote in an email that lists illnesses including colds, sore throats, pneumonia, flu and parvovirus, which she picked up. with its students over the years.
“This year is so different!” “Children don’t suck their hair or put class objects or thumbs in their mouths. Their mouths and noses are covered, so I’m (usually) protected from sneezing and coughing. ‘intention to continue to mask myself. This is the safest way as I already felt in a classroom full of 5 and 6 year olds. “
Barry Neely, 41, a songwriter from Los Angeles, fell ill with the coronavirus in March 2020 and struggled with symptoms for months. He also faced guilt of inadvertently infecting people he came into contact with before his diagnosis – which came at a time when the government was discouraging the use of masks.
Now he intends to use it whenever he’s not feeling well. “It’s not difficult to wear a mask,” said Neely. “It’s not at all difficult.”
It follows the habit of several Asian countries, he added, where wearing a mask when feeling sick is not only socially acceptable, seen as a consideration.
“If I may have spread the virus a year ago, and later learned that wearing a mask is important in preventing the spread, what’s the problem with wearing it when I have a cold?” , He asked.
For many of the so-called “permanent masked men”, the decision came after trauma: They suffered Covid or saw loved ones die, and say that by removing the mask, they feel vulnerable.