Patricia Dawe, 66, rarely wears a mask in public, and people give her the “stink eye” for it, she said.
She’ll wear one in order to get past security guards at a grocery store in Brooklyn. But once she is inside the supermarket, she takes it off. Most customers rush to other aisles when they see her coming, she said. Others stop and stare.
“There is judgment. They’re rude,” Dawe said. “But I don’t care. The mask is uncomfortable and when I breathe, it fogs up my glasses. So I don’t wear it.”
Public ridicule and judgment is an experience that’s common for people who selectively wear masks, forgo them altogether, or otherwise go against Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations, state guidelines, or an individual establishment’s rules in the middle of a pandemic. And the number of social conflicts at businesses have erupted as states have begun easing restrictions.
“People are feeling frustrated,” said crisis management expert Ronn Torossian who is at the helm of 5W Public Relations firm. “Some feel like they aren’t in danger, others think they are.” After weeks of widespread calls to stay at home, the nation is undergoing a sea change as stores reopen and authorities offer conflicting safety guidance. Should you wear a mask or shouldn’t you? Is it safe to restart the economy or should people remain hunkered down?
The mixed messages coupled with collective cabin fever are sparking clashes at businesses. Armando Pantoja was confronted by an “angry” Walmart associate on Mother’s Day as he tried to enter the store. Pantoja wasn’t wearing a mask because other locations in the San Antonio area didn’t require it, he said. “The worker was clearly upset with me. She started yelling, ‘Sir, you can’t come in,’” Pantoja said. “I didn’t want to stay and fight, so I bought my mom a card at Walgreens instead.”
Lavon Mayne, 31, got into an altercation with her boss in May after he suddenly required her to wear a mask to work in an East Texas restaurant.