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BRONX TIMES REPORTER, F 12 EBRUARY 5-11, 2021
BY BRONX TIMES
New York made mask-wearing
in public a mandate last April during
the height of the COVID-19 pandemic’s
fi rst wave. After bearing the
deadly brunt, one would have thought
other states and the federal government
would have embraced the same
Not so. With a lack of national leadership
from the previous administration,
states were allowed to do as they
pleased — and mask-wearing requirements
were wrongly confl ated into
a political question of personal freedom.
But there’s a new president in the
United States. Masked up to the nines
— or to the nose, in this set of circumstances
— and following CDC guidance,
President Joe Biden continues
to demonstrate his commitment to
truly battle this virus and lead by example.
On Jan. 29, President Biden issued
two executive orders that collectively
require masks to be worn
at airports, on plains, trains, ships,
intercity buses and federal property
— although no set date has been put
forth for this enactment.
Enacting such a policy on a national
level is a huge achievement.
For New Yorkers, that doesn’t change
very much; last April 15, Governor
Andrew Cuomo issued a statewide
mandate on mask wearing throughout
the NY transit system and in public
spaces where the 6ft social distancing
rule was not possible.
But then came the backlash, with
156 MTA staff reporting harassment
and assault between mid-April and
the end of July 2020 for their attempts
to insist passengers adhere to the new
orders. Essential workers in private
businesses also faced attacks as they
tried to enforce their stores’ chosen
Although 35 states have so far issued
a mask mandate, others, like
South Dakota, wear their opposition
as a badge of honor. Because of the
manufactured mask-mandate controversy,
the CDC reports that just 76%
practice mask-wearing. And the virus
continues to spread like wildfi re.
The issue to prioritize, at this precise
moment, is not the anti-masker
threat to herd immunity, but how will
the anti-maskers react to this new
mandate? Hopefully, not with violence
or protests — but with acceptance and
Mask-wearing never should have
been a political debate of personal
freedom; it’s about personal responsibility,
and protecting one another
from a deadly virus.
As critical as getting the vaccine
is to fi nally ending the COVID-19 pandemic,
each of us should realize our
own ability to protect each other from
the virus — by masking up in public.
Mask up already