Wearing face masks in public to become America’s new normal


For all of us, life will never be the same after the coronavirus pandemic, and in many ways this is a good thing. In Venice, fish are now visible in the canals without gondolas churning up sediment and the air is clean without pollution from water taxis. While millions of Angelenos observe shelter-in-place directives, Los Angeles has enjoyed its longest stretch of clean air since 1980. New Delhi residents report that along with unprecedented clear skies, stars can be seen at night and the air no longer tastes like charred metal. Wildlife have come out of hiding in American national parks.

The new normal?

What a boon for all to keep the air clean and good vibes going once the pandemic is under control and we find our way back to normal. But “normal” will likely look drastically different than what we are used to. For example, today citizens round the world enjoy joyful noise and charming light shows every night to honor our brave and essential front-line workers. Will the spirit continue?

With the future so unpredictable in a big, global way right now, we can only speculate how coronavirus and even its cure might determine a new normal. Already, officials see wearing face masks as the new standard even as we come out of shelter in the coming weeks and get back to at least a semblance of traditional life. Governors of Connecticut, Maryland, New York and Pennsylvania have issued recommendations that all residents wear face protection as they emerge from isolation.

If wearing face protection indeed becomes the new normal, we’re bound to see some innovative, creative solutions. Waiting for the more heavy-duty N95 masks to be produced and made available to the general public, people are scouring the internet for other available forms of personal protective equipment like disposable filter masks. In a matter of days, a wave of mask styles has appeared for sale online. Staying true to necessity as the mother of invention, countless videos are now circulating to guide people through various mask-making processes. The Centers for Disease Control offers a tutorial on making masks at home out of T-shirts. In the spirit of camaraderie and “we’re in this together,” some people are making multiple masks to hand out to community members.

Getting creative

Staying home has forced us to explore new things and experience old things in new ways. We are playing board games with our families and checking in more frequently with distant friends and family. Zoom parties spring up by the hour. Neighbors are walking, biking, and boarding, and sometimes easily outnumber the cars on the roads.

Perhaps emerging standards that determine our next new normal will incorporate ways to keep canals sparkling, air pristine, and invite wild critters to be, well, wild. While the source of the virus remains unknown, it is no mystery that Covid-19 has changed the way we live and continues to do so as we cautiously emerge from various forms of shelter and adapt to the new normal, masks and all.

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