Masks Need to Become Part of America's Culture

June 25, 2020, 6:00 PM · It's hard to imagine that what's happened around the world over the past four months won't have a long-lasting effect upon the way that people think, feel and act in the years to come. The Covid-19 pandemic has been traumatic for everyone. The level of that trauma varies, of course. Some of us have lost loved ones. Others don't know of anyone who's caught the virus. But everyone has been affected by stay-at-home orders and resulting cultural chaos as the world looks for new ways to adapt and connect.

We've talked a bit around here about how the pandemic might affect the theme park experience. In the short term, obviously, we're looking at the elimination of meet and greets, events that gather large crowd in close quarters, and some hands-on experiences such as playgrounds and interactive displays.

But this goes far beyond theme parks, of course. My son just celebrated his birthday, and we realized that blowing out birthday candles just can't safely be a thing anymore. (My solution was knocking over a string of dominoes as you make your wish - one for each year.) Hugs and handshakes have given way to elbow bumps and then to bowing.

What else might change? One positive change that I would love to see come from this horrible situation is a global acceptance of wearing masks whenever you might be sick.

Associated in America, at least, with Asian cultures, mask-wearing just makes sense for everyone from a public health perspective. Basic physics says that if you want to stop the spread of germs coughed, sneezed, or exhaled, the simplest way to do that is to block them right at their source. A mask over a sick person's mouth and nose could help reduce the spread of countless illnesses, including the dreaded Covid-19.

Right now in the United States, we need everyone to wear a mask in public because this pandemic is so widespread in so many communities that containing it immediately must be our top national priority. Until we have universal and frequent testing to know exactly who is, or is not, infectious at any given moment, we need to just assume that everyone might be. So everyone should wear a mask when near others outside their household.

But even when this threat passes, mask use should become a regular custom whenever someone doesn't feel well or could have been exposed to an illness.

In theme parks, this would require a permanent change to admission policies that ban the wearing of masks. While that makes some sense from the perspective of promoting security and minimizing guest confusion as to who's actually a park character, it is more important for everyone's safety that potentially infectious people be wearing masks whenever they are in public.

Now, it would be ever better if people who didn't feel well were able to stay at home. But until everyone in America has paid sick leave, that ain't happening. So let's add another Covid-inspired change that I would like to see theme parks - and other public accommodations - make permanent: temperature checks.

Whether it's an individual forehead scan or walking past a body-temperature reader, parks should be able to identify guests with elevated temperatures, then take them aside to see what might be wrong. If they are sick, they should be sent back to their home or hotel to recuperate rather than allowed into a public space where they might infect others.

How often have you been laid up with a cold or flu because someone didn't stay home and didn't wear a mask to keep their cough or sneeze off you? If this pandemic has taught us anything, it should be the lesson that we are all part of global, national, local, and personal communities. And we share obligations to each of these communities - obligations which start with not bringing harm to others within them. And selfishness can kill.

So let's make this a habit, everyone - even when this pandemic is over (whenever that might be). Hang on to those masks. Wash them and keep them ready for the next time you get sick with anything. And even when community-wide mask orders go away, let us all let the parks know that we are okay with temperature checks becoming a permanent requirement to enter.

Stay safe, everyone.

Replies (18)

June 25, 2020 at 7:17 PM

Amen. It’s a simple safety measure and a pretty low bar to clear for basic human decency.

June 25, 2020 at 7:23 PM

I agree with the masks, but the turning guests away because of a temperature check would raise a lot of questions for me. Who sets the bar for your fever? Do you get a refund on your ticket? Maybe doing a temperature check and requiring a mask makes sense, but sending them home seems like it would cause issues.(here I am talking about post-COVID)

June 25, 2020 at 8:16 PM

Very well said, and absolutely right. Literally tens of thousands of Americans would be alive right now, and tens of thousands of more would not soon die, if we all wore masks in public. A thin piece of fabric--and a reasonable willingness to wear it--is all it would take to save thousands of lives.

Also: "My solution was knocking over a string of dominoes as you make your wish - one for each year." Great job, Dad, fantastic idea.

June 25, 2020 at 10:21 PM

It does amaze me people don't grasp such simple obvious logic that masks help but then, folks can be denying of facts and science no matter what.

I did love a joke I saw online: "The same folks who have been ranting for years on prepping for nuclear winter/civil war/zombie uprising and being 'hardened survivors"...are now whining over having to wear a thin piece of cloth for more than ten minutes."

June 25, 2020 at 11:33 PM

I absolutely agree with you that masks are essential in keeping you and your fellow park visitors safe. The resistance to wear masks by some in Europe and USA is simply irresponsible. This kind of attitude will only result in more deaths and the economy will continue to suffer.

In fact with the number of new cases in Florida, I am dumbfounded that Walt Disney World is going to re-open.

June 25, 2020 at 11:33 PM

I simply do what I’ve been taught to do. Wash my hands regularly, and when I have to cough or sneeze, do so flush into my elbow so I’m not sneezing into mid air or into my hand and touching stuff later. I respect the mask and the need to wear it and those who want to wear it. But I’d rather breathe fresh air and continue to just sneeze/cough hard into my elbow. That hurts no one.

June 26, 2020 at 3:44 AM

Well said Robert and fully agree with all of your thoughts and "ditto" for the UK. As mentioned earlier in the week in another of your articles, I am subjected to thermal imaging every day as part of site access.............and it works! Anybody who has a temperature higher than 37.5C is turned back at the gate. We also have to wear masks if travelling in site vehicles if 6 feet distancing is not possible. We have several thousand people on the project and these measures have resulted in zero cases for over the past two months. Theme Parks must adopt to this kind of screening as a minimum and we must all adapt to these measures prior to access to the parks. Social distancing in all aspects of our daily life should continue until the virus is obsolete and/or a proven vaccine is available. Human behaviour when things ease will be the hardest thing to manage but if the infrastructure is in place, social distancing applied, park marshalls ensuring compliance at all times and penalties imposed if the rules are broken gives us a fighting chance in the short and medium term.

June 26, 2020 at 3:45 AM

I think you should stay home when you are sick, not going out to a theme park.
During the whole pandemic thing the Netherlands didn't enforce masks except in public transportation. Looking at the numbers of infected or death we are lower or the same as countries who enforced masks (and % wise much lower than the US). Giving a false sense of security is the worst thing you can do and masks are exactly that.

June 26, 2020 at 8:22 AM

Good, incisive article Robert. Masks are the way to go. Unfortunately, too many people are too selfish to put others' well-being ahead of their own comfort. Going out while sick, and being with others in close quarters, is largely unavoidable as long as many employers continue to be so stingy with paid sick time and airlines continue to charge steep change fees, but anyone who's sick could at least have the common courtesy to wear a mask. Of course, the best way to avoid getting sick in the first place is to stay at home. I have CVID (common variable immunodeficiency) and manage to contract upper respiratory infections despite getting intravenous immunoglobulin once a month but since being forced to work at home as a result of the pandemic I have not gotten sick.

June 26, 2020 at 9:57 AM

Masks have a positive effect on the disruption on transmission of disease. However, wearing a mask (once this time is finished) only when you are sick would be like the proverbial "red letter" to indicate a pariah. When you are unwell, you should stay away from others.

June 26, 2020 at 11:23 AM

Hear that beeping sound? The “open up” truck is now in reversein Florida. Bars have been ordered to close again as hospitalisation and proportion of positive tests.

President trump has decided to cancel his golfing trip to New Jersey.

June 26, 2020 at 11:29 AM

The problem with COVID-19 is that you can spread the virus even when you are not showing any symptoms. That's why so many people catch the virus. There are a lot more people who have the virus but are not showing symptoms than those who are actually sick.

You may think you are healthy and go out to have a good time. But you could be actually spreading the virus just by breathing in and out. You may think sneezing into your elbow hurts no one, but you could be a COVID-19 carrier without knowing it.

I know someone who was in Florida and he caught the virus and he didn't know about it until he returned to Hong Kong and got tested. The test results showed he had a very heavy virus loading. But he was never sick. He spent more than two weeks in hospital to get rid of the virus but he was never sick.

Also, FYI, WHO already changed their minds about the use of masks.

June 26, 2020 at 11:59 AM

It is amazing to see how badly states bungled it more than others. Right now, Texas and Florida have to reverse course to shut more places down while Illinois (who had shelter going for over two solid months) are going to "Phase 4" this weekend with gyms, indoor dining, museums, theaters now open (with masks and distancing). It shows how stronger measures do have better results as even California made the mistake of going for "county-by-county" on various mandates.

June 26, 2020 at 12:21 PM

"During the whole pandemic thing the Netherlands didn't enforce masks except in public transportation. Looking at the numbers of infected or death we are lower or the same as countries who enforced masks (and % wise much lower than the US"

Lets see, so the Dutch numbers are supposed to be better than other nations (wrong, ill admit its easy to lose perspective with a yardstick like Florida), which was achieved "without enforcing masks"... "expect"...

Basically you became slightly less wrong by being two times wrong :-).

Now back to the question what to do in non corona times.

Temperature checks should be possible very cheap and non intrusive with scanners, so i´d say ok maybe - but i don´t think they will add much positive since going to a theme park or to work with fever should still be minority behaviour. If it´s worth at all depends on how small that minority is. If its really small one might end up with more false positives than actual ones. Some conditions or the medication against them case high temperature without people being contagious or in general in to bad health to work or go to a theme park. There is also the old issue of authoritarian control undermining voluntary self control. I´ll put that in the maybe as well as in the heavily dependend on local social norms as wel as other conditions box.

Did not know they were completly banned in US parks, that sounds like a bad decission on many levels. Japan is probably overdoing it, even for their physical conditions and social context, but that is not excuse to go the other way and not do it at all. Overall a definite hell yes. It´s not just a pragmatic solution to the we all know people won´t stay home when they should problem, in many situations it even seems the outright best solution.

June 26, 2020 at 12:56 PM

@Chad H .... yep, almost 9000 new cases yesterday, and Orange county went over a 1000.

Let's see .... 3 weeks ago ?? .... Ah yes, protests, phase 2 opening and Universal and SeaWorld opened. Coincidence ??

I still can't see WDW opening on the 11th, despite supposedly moving forward with their plans. They surely now have to weigh-up the options of not opening, vrs taking the risk of opening and then inevitably having to close later on.

June 26, 2020 at 2:08 PM

Closing down is expensive….masks are cheap.

June 26, 2020 at 5:42 PM

Here in the North East we must wear mask, can not gather in large groups and are finally making some headway in stopping\slowing the Virus. We take the stay at home rule seriously. I have not been to work in over three months. (I can work from home)…

The fat bloated GOP governor of Florida was mocking The North East specifically NY just a few weeks ago. Saying how great he was. He was thumping his man boobs saying maybe there is Black Helicopter flying over the health dept, like this was some kind of conspiracy or Hoax.

He is ignorant and ignored Governor Cuomo’s warnings. But hey just like the clown in charge, He knows everything. Many deaths will follow his ignorance.

Yes, I am pissed since we are the worst country by far and there is no excuse for this foolishness. China, Italy, France had some large issues but overcame them. We are getting worse and it is like the Gov’t said F*** it. Lets those die and fend for themselves. This is embarrassing.

Now I sit here waiting for the usual GOPers to say this is someone eases fault... COME ON MAN - Get your crap together.

June 29, 2020 at 3:16 PM

I just saw Indiana Beach theme park reopening under new ownership this weekend.

At the big VIP ceremony, the new owners on the podium, doing speeches, not one wearing a mask. And many guests not either. And the park's own website saying guest "are suggested but not required to wear masks."

I mean, that anyone can look at the news and not think a mask may be a smart move just for their own health is astounding.

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