We should remember that a fine will deter the poor more than the rich, so there should be free and easy ways to get a mask (as in Utah). One possibility: Police departments have a bad rep right now, in particular among the same minorities disproportionately dying from the epidemic. To help build trust again, police officers could help pass out masks or deliver instructions for making a mask (these directions from the CDC use just scissors and any old t-shirt, and other websites cover effective materials).
Making masks mandatory will help us get closer to universal mask-wearing, which is what we need to control our outbreak. Once it becomes normal, wearing a mask will seem so trivial and something we barely think about, like making sure we have our keys when we leave the house. We have broken so many cultural norms in a short time (for example canceling entire sports seasons), let’s build a new one together.
A quick caveat: Note that wearing a mask helps, but isn’t a bulletproof vest against spreading the virus. We must stay vigilant about physical distancing, hand-washing, and other commonsense measures.
Let’s all do our part to get back to a normal life more quickly.
For those of us with a responsibility to lead the public: mandate mask-wearing, and make sure we all understand why.
For individuals: wear a mask, proudly and patriotically. Ask your friends and family to do so too.
Nancy Ouyang earned her master’s degree in computer science from Harvard University and her bachelor’s degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She is currently researching robotic manipulation while pursuing her Ph.D. She was born in Atlanta and raised in Duluth, where she has returned during this pandemic.