Mask refusal

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A sign letting those entering know that masks are required. VIRL COVID-19 Masks Required Sign.jpg
A sign letting those entering know that masks are required.

Mask refusal is when a person refuses to comply with a requirement to wear a face covering, and does not meet the criteria for any exceptions to the requirement. This can occur during a pandemic when health experts recommend wearing face coverings in order to reduce the spread of disease, causing establishments or governments to require such wearing to protect the health of others.


Some mask refusal incidents have resulted in confrontations with staff, law enforcement, security guards, and others. These confrontations at times have been verbally loud or in some cases violent. Some mask refusers who have engaged in confrontations have been arrested and sometimes criminally prosecuted. Videos of these incidents, which have occurred in locations such as retail stores and airplanes, have often been seen in the news and social media and have gone viral.


Opposition to wearing masks occurred during the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic. The Anti-Mask League of San Francisco was formed by those who refused to wear face masks. [1] During the pandemic, $5 fines were imposed in San Francisco for failure to wear masks as a violation of "disturbing the peace", and many refusing to wear a mask paid the fines. [1]

Mask opposition has been a common sight around the world during the COVID-19 pandemic as those opposed to requirements to cover their faces have exhibited protests and unruly behavior in public over their refusal to follow this guideline. [2] [3]

There is currently no judicial precedent in the United States providing that a governmental entity may require individuals to wear face masks in public settings. However, in Jacobson v. Massachusetts, the Supreme Court of the United States upheld a Massachusetts law that mandated vaccines against smallpox amidst a public health crisis, thereby acknowledging the police power of the States. [4] As for statutes, no federal law requires individuals to wear face masks in an effort to preserve public health. [5] However, the executive branch is authorized to make any regulations necessary in preventing the spread of diseases into and within the United States. [6] Under the Department of Health and Human Services, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) currently recommends the wearing of face masks to slow the spread of COVID-19. [7] Following this guidance, President Biden signed an executive order requiring individuals to wear face masks on all federal property. [8] In addition, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) requires passengers to wear face masks when traveling on all transportation networks. [9] To enforce this rule, the TSA imposes civil penalties on passengers who refuse to wear face masks while traveling on transportation networks throughout the United States. [10]


Reasons given by people who refuse to wear face masks range significantly, including: potential danger of wearing face masks due to personal health issues, the absence or lack of symptoms of COVID-19 exhibited by the individual, [11] ineffectiveness at reducing COVID-19 transmission, alleged exaggeration of the threats of the virus (some would even argue that it does not exist) while others object to governments having the power to force people to wear face coverings, such as passing certain mandates (not laws) that require the population to wear it. [12] Some people do not wear a face mask on medical grounds and are legally exempt from having to wear one. [13]

Mask-wearing has been seen as an example of a generational divide by some, with older adults who refused to wear masks being seen as selfish. [14] In addition, men have been seen as more likely to refuse wearing masks, seeing them as a threat to their masculinity. [15] [16] Refusal to wear face masks is also linked to vaccine hesitancy or anti-vaccination sentiment, political conservatism, [17] rural dwelling, [18] [19] and non-adherence to public hygiene rules, or social distancing guidelines. [12] Other factors which may make people less likely to wear masks includes a low death rate due to pandemic disease in one's hometown, and low mask-wearing among one's peers. [20]


Consequences for mask refusal or improper mask-wearing can range from anything from public shaming [21] [22] (including calling women who refuse to wear masks "Karens" [23] ), ejection or banning from an establishment either temporarily or permanently, [24] [25] [26] criminal prosecution. [27] [28] , or getting and/or spreading a contagious disease (such as COVID-19)

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