At a recent party at Bilboquet, a restaurant to see and be seen in the Hamptons on Long Island, New York, diners were strutting around munching on cans of Osetra caviar at $ 475 each (around R $ 2,400). ). A handsome man showed his gold Audemar Piguet watch to his glitter-covered companion. A group of ten people dressed in polo shirts and striped overalls danced to a tropical house remix of Tina Turner’s “What’s Love Got to Do With It”.
All were unmasked, while the waiters, bartenders and other locals kept their mouths and noses covered.
A similar scene took place at the Gucci store in East Hampton, where shoppers removed their masks when they read the sign on the door saying vaccinated customers can enter without covering their faces. Inside, they were assisted by vendors wearing blue and white surgical masks, a company policy.
In the weeks since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revised their mask guidelines, allowing fully vaccinated people to remove masks in most indoor environments, a severe division has emerged, particularly in the richer enclaves where services are too expensive.
Those who still wear masks tend to belong to the servant class – clerks, waiters, janitors, manicurists, security guards, receptionists, hairdressers and drivers – while those who do not wear facials are often well-off customers. , drinking and dining.
Employers are reluctant to discuss their mask policies, but there are reasonable grounds for requiring employees to keep face masks on.
Just under 50% of the US population is fully vaccinated. And coronavirus variants, some of which are highly infectious and may be more resistant to vaccines, are on the increase, said Dr Lisa Maragakis, a public health researcher and associate professor at Johns Hopkins University.
Restaurant workers, store clerks, supermarket cashiers and other public-facing workers who interact with customers all day can put their health and that of customers at risk. Not only does this create potential liability issues for employers, but it can also cripple a business in times of labor shortages.
Even in establishments that give vaccinated employees the option of removing masks, many keep them on their faces. “Who knows who got the vaccine and who didn’t?” Said Michelle Booker, a Bronx resident who sells in a phone store in Manhattan. She wore a mask on a recent Tuesday, although the company allows vaccinated employees to do without. “I don’t believe half the people who come here,” she said. “I am still terrified.”
From a public relations perspective, masked employees send a message about how management views the health of its customers and employees. “Its workers are serious professionals who take safety seriously,” said Erin Vearncombe, a professor at the University of Toronto (Canada) who studies the sociology of dress codes.
The resulting class division isn’t always intentional, but it can still be frightening to see the masks come out of the pandemic as yet another symbol of inequality.
At an Apple store in Manhattan on a recent Friday, unmasked shoppers were seen buying $ 1,500 phones from masked sellers who might not earn as much in an entire week. At a nearby Sweetgreen store, employees wearing black masks and aprons, who were mostly black, were making blackberry salads with a $ 14 burrata for predominantly white customers.
“This sends a message – which has been internalized on both sides – that the body of the wearer of the mask is ‘riskier’ than the body of the consumer,” Vearncombe said. “It shows that some groups have, and even deserve, more civil liberties than others.”
Some workers argue that the double standard of the mask – a rule for customers, a rule for employees – is not only discriminatory, it defies logic.
“Customers need to be vaccinated so they don’t wear masks, but we can’t ask for proof,” said Jose de la Rosa, 26, who works at a Times Square store. “And we have workers who are fully vaccinated, can prove it and still have to wear a mask. It’s weird.”
As more Americans are vaccinated, some facilities have a unique policy for employees and customers, allowing anyone who is fully vaccinated to skip the mask.
A wide range of businesses, such as Louis Vuitton, Verizon, Dior, Target, and Home Depot, enforce this policy in all of their US stores. Starbucks recently announced that vaccinated workers will be able to remove their masks starting Monday.
But for now, the division remains in many places. One recent afternoon at Hudson Yards, Mark Pasektsky, 49, an advertising strategist, was shopping for shirts at Theory. The vendors who helped him wore masks. He doesn’t.
“It’s weird, isn’t it?” He said. “You can’t completely blame the bosses. How do you comfortably set up a policy that protects everyone? You can’t answer because there is no answer. But the psychology behind the other approach is very curious. Why are they forcing employees to wear masks when customers don’t? Everyone is confused. “