The Face Mask Debate

Many Americans do not want to wear a face mask, which is why mask wearing mandates are a challenge because they really cannot be effectively enforced. If people don’t want to wear them, what can you do? 

The reality is, you can’t do much. The police don’t want to enforce mask wearing regulations. YouTube videos show sometimes physical altercations with employees and customers who refuse to wear masks. 

People can be trespassed from business properties for not wearing masks, but this calls into question those who have medical conditions for which mandates provide exceptions. 

What is likely to result is some ugly confrontations and subsequent lawsuits. Here are some of the thoughts and arguments concerning mask wearing. 

Argument #1: Civil Rights

Some people are refusing to wear masks in protests of government orders. They say it goes against their freedoms and civil liberties. Some people say it limits their freedom of speech, but the courts haven’t agreed due to public safety.

In some areas, there are anti-mask laws on the books stemming from efforts to minimize the anonymity of Klu Klux Klan activities. The courts have had to suspend this type of law for things like Halloween. They now have to suspend this law for coronavirus. 

Essentially, it appears that the courts side with mask mandates in the name of public safety. This isn’t a rule that discriminates against sex, race, or religion. And most mandates include exceptions when there is a health concern. 

Argument #2: Health

Many Americans with health conditions are claiming that they cannot wear a mask due to health reasons. Most of the time, this is not accurate. If a person is healthy enough to go to the store unassisted, they can breathe well enough with a mask on. However, many mask requirements allow exemptions for health reasons. Even a loose bandanna will provide some coverage to prevent spreading droplets from your mouth. The argument that one may experience worsening respiratory issues is not fair because it depends on the individual. 

Argument #3: Racial Profiling

In one Oregon county, masks are only required for white people. This is to prevent racial profiling. People believe that non-white people may appear more menacing with a facial covering. It is not clear where this idea came from. When there is a mask mandate, it is assumed that all people would appear similarly in masks. In any case, this is one of the arguments against mask wearing. 

Argument #4: Discomfort

Many people don’t want to wear masks because they don’t like the way masks feel. The material varies mask by mask, but most are at least slightly uncomfortable. Depending on the wearer, a person may end up feeling like they have to gasp for air. Others may sweat beneath the cloth. It feels very good to remove one’s mask after a public outing.

Argument #5: Social Distancing

Lastly, a common argument against mask wearing is that people are social distancing, so it isn’t necessary. People are under the impression that cloth face coverings don’t help because viruses are small and can travel through anything that isn’t N-95 rated. They feel that as long as they socially distance, they shouldn’t need to increase the burden of a pandemic with a mask. Unfortunately, droplets from the mouth and nose can remain suspended in the air for a long time, especially indoors. The mask is to reduce the spread and the distance that these virus-carrying droplets can travel. 

Face Mask Lawsuits

A current lawsuit regarding mask wearing has been filed against Giant Eagle grocery stores because they have turned away people for not wearing a face mask. The complaint comes from people with disabilities who say they legally are exempted from wearing masks due to their conditions. They say that not letting them in the store is discrimination protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act.  

In the store’s defense, they have offered other options for grocery shopping for people who cannot wear masks such as curbside pickup. They aren’t trying to prevent people from getting groceries but rather prevent people from spreading COVID-19. It is unclear whether or not the courts will grant an injunction. 

Other lawsuits have been filed against employers for not allowing staff to wear masks. In the beginning of the pandemic, some employers feared that wearing masks would scare away customers. The government wasn’t recommending masks at the time, so there wasn’t as much legal recourse. Now that they are, the courts are more likely to side with employees who want to keep safe and cannot afford to stay home. 

The opinions of business owners’ regarding face masks seem to come from personal beliefs and public sentiment. If no masks means more patrons, they are more inclined to err on the side of financial success. This is not as demonic as it sounds because many entrepreneurs are struggling during this time. If masks are the ticket to sustainability, they will wear them. 

Benefits of a Face Mask

The challenge of getting people to wear a face mask is ongoing. Governor Rick DeSantis seems defeated in the challenge of getting young people to wear masks and socially distance because of summer fun. However, very few people would argue about whether or not people should be allowed to wear masks. That is why we are listing a few of the benefits of wearing a mask that you may not have considered: 

  1. You help other people. It isn’t you that is protecting yourself by wearing a mask. You are protecting other people from yourself. Many of us are walking around spreading COVID-19 without knowing we are infected. Wearing a mask reduces the chance that you’ll spread it to others. 
  2. You help people who have no choice but to go to work. There is nothing worse than seeing a grocer with tired eyes and knowing that they continue to work no matter what the stay-at-home order is. Out of respect for our healthcare workers, grocers, and other essential workers, Put on a mask. 
  3. You don’t have to talk to people. In many ways, going to the grocery store is less stressful when you are wearing a mask because people tend to talk less. You no longer have to dread that once-a-year encounter with an annoying acquaintance who traps you in conversation next to the ice cream. People want to get in and get out, and this can be nice. 
  4. It helps keep our economy open. Scientific studies show, wearing masks helps reduce transmission of the Coronavirus. If we can do even one little thing to limits the spread of the virus, we should because it helps keep businesses open. The last thing we want is another shutdown.
  5. Dress it up, or dress it down. Lastly, there is much less emphasis on looks if that is how you want it to be. Don’t have your makeup on perfectly? No problem. You’re wearing a mask. If hiding behind a mask doesn’t give you any relief, get a designer mask. Make it your new accessory. People will compliment you on your mask. You can also make your masks fun with creative fabrics or characters. This pleases children and adults alike. Mask wearing can be fun. 

Requiring Masks to Avoid Lawsuits

Apparently, requiring masks is no way to avoid a lawsuit, but not requiring masks isn’t a guarantee either. You have to do what you feel is the most reasonable option whether you are a patron, employee, or business owner. There will be many more lawsuits concerning mask wear, and it simply isn’t clear what the courts will rule. There really isn’t any precedent for a big pandemic like this in modern times. 

If you’d like to speak to an attorney regarding a potential personal injury lawsuit, contact Kirshner, Groff, and Diaz for a no-obligation consultation. 

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