Some people "may elect to wear masks" after mandates end. Let them

(AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)

This is most likely a question that depends heavily on where you live, your age, and what social circles you tend to run in. When are we taking off all of these face masks, with or without Big Brother’s permission? I’ve been hearing from plenty of people who have already largely ditched their masks or are growing impatient with the government’s hesitancy to do away with these mandates. But I know plenty of other people (including some relatives) who are not only still wearing them whenever they leave the house but bristle at the sight of others going maskless. As CBS Baltimore points out this week, not everyone finds the idea of wearing masks tiresome. In fact, some are saying that they plan to continue wearing them long after the mandates are lifted, at least into next year. This is more than a personal choice, however, and there may be legal implications involved.

According to Infectious Disease experts, the United States has had a non-existent flu season because of the precautions taken to combat Covid-19. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, suggested wearing a mask may become a seasonal practice.

“People might actually elect to wear a mask to diminish the likelihood of spreading these respiratory diseases,” said Dr. Fauci.

We posed the question to the public, when it comes to ultimately easing the mask requirement indoors, how are you feeling? We got a range of responses including “relieved,” “uncomfortable,” and “anxious.”

“I think we’re headed in the right direction, but it’s a little bit too early to take the masks off inside,” said Mark Jensen from Baltimore.

For some of us (including yours truly), that time has already come. I’ve never worn a mask outside and now I will only put one on if I have to go into a store that requires them. Even then, I’m keeping my eye open for businesses that don’t require them and will patronize them whenever possible.

But that’s not an opinion that’s anywhere near universal. My social media timeline is littered with memes urging people to shun the maskless, even mockingly threatening violence against those who fail to comply. In general, those opposed to these mandates tend to come from conservative circles, particularly among younger folks who aren’t as worried about contracting the novel coronavirus. Liberals tend to fall in line far more quickly, and the elderly (who are at the greatest risk of a bad COVID outcome) also seem to be more inclined to mask up.

Speaking of the attitudes of senior citizens, MedicareGuide published the results of a survey yesterday showing that more than a third of Americans age 65 and over won’t remove their face masks until at least next year. An astounding 12% said that they plan on wearing masks for the rest of their lives.

Over one-third (36%) of Americans age 65 and over aren’t comfortable taking off their masks in public until 2022 or later, and more than one in ten (12%) say they’ll never remove their masks.

MedicareGuide asked 500 senior Americans when they would feel comfortable resuming everyday activities as the COVID-19 pandemic begins to ease.

We also assessed how the pandemic affected seniors’ wellbeing, and what strategies they employed to cope with it.

My personal take on this is that it’s a (mostly) free country and if you want to keep on wearing a face mask because you think it could help you avoid catching a disease, go for it. The data supporting such an assumption, particularly in the case of cloth face masks is dubious at best, but I’m not about to make your fashion choices for you. I have no intention of accepting this as “the new normal” but you’ll all have to decide such things for yourself.

Or will you? There is another legal element to this question that hasn’t been dealt with yet. 18 states and Washington DC all have laws on the books that prohibit wearing any sort of face-covering in certain places or under specific circumstances. Since the pandemic hit, all of them have conveniently “forgotten” about these laws rather than throwing everyone who leaves their home in jail. (Ironically, all of those states, along with D.C. either have or had executive orders mandating the wearing of masks, so you were breaking the law every time you left your home no matter what you did.)

Most of these laws were put in place to prevent the Klu Klux Klan from marching anonymously through the streets. Other regulations are specific to people engaged in the commission of a crime, providing additional penalties for disguising yourself to avoid identification and prosecution by law enforcement. Once the mandates all end, what will become of those laws? Will they be repealed, or at least modified to only apply to people pulling heists or other crimes? If not, there are going to be a lot of senior citizens lining up for a chat with the cops.

If I had to guess, the modification of these laws will be the choice for most states. If people are choosing to wear a mask for health reasons and not going around knocking over liquor stores, it’s harmless enough. (Although I’m not sure how many bank robbers are worried about an extra misdemeanor rap on top of a gun charge.) Just don’t try to force the masks on the rest of us. That’s not going to end well at all and the government will just be spoiling for a revolt at the ballot box… or worse.