Should masks be here to stay?

New York Governor Kathy Hochul proposed a mask ban. Here's why she wants one — and why it may not make sense.

Woman wearing a protective face mask while standing on train platform with her arms crossed, looking annoyed
'A post-Covid reality is beginning to sink in: Everyone, everywhere, really is sick a lot more often.'
(Image credit: EMS Forster Productions / Getty Images)

Four years after the Covid-19 pandemic's onset, a lot less people are wearing masks. As vaccines offered protection and the rate of spread slowed, government recommendations for masking dropped. Now, New York's governor, Kathy Hochul, is considering outlawing masks on public transit. The policy was proposed to prevent criminal attacks, says Hochul, who fears that identity-concealing coverings may be worn in antisemitic ambushes. Hochul agreed that subway riders could have non-criminal reasons for covering their faces, including the prevention of illnesses like Covid and said those people would be excluded from the ban. However, "it was not immediately clear how such a distinction would be enforced," said The New York Times. The apparent incidents Hochul referenced also did not involve people wearing masks. 

Masks became commonplace in America amid the pandemic, but their ubiquity has waned in recent years. And many U.S. residents resisted them to begin with, calling it an infringement on their civil liberties. By contrast, mask-wearing in places like China, Hong Kong and Japan "was a cultural norm even before the coronavirus outbreak," said the BBC. Citizens in many Asian countries are "used to wearing masks when they are sick or when it's hay fever season because it's considered impolite to be sneezing or coughing openly." 

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Anya Jaremko-Greenwold has worked as a story editor at The Week since 2024. She previously worked at FLOOD Magazine, Woman's World, First for Women, DGO Magazine and BOMB Magazine. Anya's culture writing has appeared in The Atlantic, Jezebel, Vice and the Los Angeles Review of Books, among others.