14 May 2023

To Mask or not to Mask, that is the Question: Spoiler alert, those who mask may not be criminals.

When the Mayor of New York city asked shoppers to remove their masks, it led to very worrisome conversations with many moving parts that need to be unpacked.

First, Mayor Eric Adams framed mask wearers as likely criminals by saying, “When you see these mask-wearing people, oftentimes it’s not about being fearful of the pandemic,” he said. “It’s fearful of the police catching them for their deeds.”

Second, it prompted many like Fernando Mateo of the United Bodega Workers of America, to weigh in with an assessment of the risks of COVID19 - despite having no expertise to do so - by saying, “COVID is over, let’s take the masks off.”

This conversation is being echoed in Canada as well, as can be seen from this quote by a guy who works in security with no expertise in COVID19, “We are seeing a lot of people who are up to no good keeping masks on, and I’m sure it’s to aid in their ability to do what they want to do.”

Let’s unpack the facts. If COVID19 is still a risk for hospitalizing and killing people, masks would be warranted and this makes the whole argument that only criminals wear masks a moot point. So, let’s start there.

Vaccines have helped reduce the harms of COVID19 but even those who have fully updated bivalent vaccines can still get infected. We are hoping for better vaccines that prevent infection but they are still in the works, so until the time they arrive, masking is crucial if COVID19 is still a risk and, indeed, it is.

In Canada, COVID19 is the second reason for hospitalization and the third cause of death.

So, the narrative that COVID19 is over and there isn’t a need to mask, simply doesn’t fit with the facts. When lives and health are at risk, facts matter.

In his statement, Mayor Adams suggests what he probably considers a compromise, by saying, “We are putting out a clear call to all of our shops: Do not allow people to enter the store without taking off their face mask… And then once they’re inside, they can continue to wear it if they so desire to do so."

This statement also misses the facts by a wide margin. COVID19 is an airborne virus and, in an area where many people removing their masks, the density of the virus would be significant, putting people at risk by breathing in enough virus to get infected.

When calling out inaccurate facts, I’d also like to call out bad takes, because Mayor Adams called people who wear masks as “being fearful of the pandemic.” and this is a call to remove masks and get infected when COVID19 is still a clear and present danger to the population.

There is a hidden bad take in all of this and it warrants some airtime: identifying who might be involved in criminal activity on first glance is fraught with biases. Much has been written about racial biases in policing and this call against masks puts those masking while not white at risk.

An article published in April 2023, presented findings showing that Indigenous, Latino, Pacific Islander and Black Americans all have significantly higher COVID-19 mortality rates than either white or Asian Americans when the data are adjusted to account for age distribution differences among racial and ethnic groups.

So, those more likely to be identified as criminals while wearing masks are also the same groups that are most in need of masking because they are most at risk.

Between inaccurate facts and bad takes, the conversation about masks and criminal activity is problematic. It may well be that criminals are using masks as a way to hide their identity but many are masking to protect themselves against an airborne virus that is still putting people in hospital and killing them. Conflating mask wearing and criminal activity is something I did not expect to be on our Bingo card for 2023, but here we are.

And let’s get personal – because it is for me – If my 6’ 3' mixed race son enters your store masked, do not tackle or taser him. He’s my child, trying to protect his parents – including his father who just had heart surgery – from COVID19.


  1. My husband is back in a hospital in South Dakota, where they not only no longer require masks, but have put away all the free mask containers that used to be everywhere. Meanwhile, he's in the cardiopulmonary ward, and if he catches anything...

  2. I’m so very sorry, Eve. Crossing my fingers for him. BTW - I can’t seem to comment under my name, but it is Mary.

  3. Elizabeth Dearborn14 May, 2023 14:26

    Wow, Eve, I'm sending best wishes to your husband. We're still wearing masks on our many trips to the VA hospital, which still requires them. I always carry masks with me but I almost never see other folks wearing them other than at the hospital.

    After my mother died a little less than a year ago, one of our more racist cousins refused to come to her memorial service because she would have needed to wear a mask! This was to protect my brother-in-law who had recently undergone heart surgery, but if she didn't care about that, we figured we didn't need to see her at the memorial, & haven't spoken to her since.

    1. Wow, Elizabeth. That woman needs a wakeup slap. I mean nudge, yeah.

  4. Florida statistics per week:
    • 4000 Floridians contract Covid each week
    • 400 of those require hospitalization
    • 40 of those die

    Damn right to be scared– or is it merely sensible? To hell with our political overlords, I wear a mask.

    >those more likely to be identified as criminals while wearing masks are also the same groups that are most in need of masking because they are most at risk.

    I have yet to hear of criminals relying on masks. On the contrary, complaints about cops wearing masks and refusing to identify are reported on YouTube. I hadn't realized few laws require police to self-identify, leaving it up to department policy.

    Eve and Mary, I'm sorry to hear about your husbands and wish you and them the best.

    1. Thank you so much, Leigh. Not anonymous, but actually Mary. 😂

  5. An Orlando downtown bank has a sign on its door: Remove hats, sunglasses, and masks before entering. I'm not sure who they're afraid of. My own bank has used Covid as an excuse to close their lobbies.

  6. Maybe because I am a little old lady, but no one has complained about my mask. I am ready to compare medical histories though, starting with my stroke 15 years ago, the diabetes, the high blood pressure, high cholesterol and now I'm starting radiation for cancer. Oddly enough, I feel great so far. Nobody should have to fight to wear a mask ever.
    Chris Wallace

  7. Eve and Mary, I'm sending healing energy and positive vibes to both husbands. My area has remained low for Covid so I don't wear a mask any more. It's not required even at our hospital. However I'm doubly vaccinated. But I would never go maskless in someplace where mask are require or around anyone with a medical condition. I guess as far as the criminal element I have not heard of criminals wearing mask to do their dirty deeds in my area but I did wonder strongly about it when we all were required to wear them. I do still have a mask in my purse and a couple in my car's console so can mask up if necessary. Again best wishes for the hubbies.


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