New federal guidelines suggest that people wear homemade face coverings in public to fight the coronavirus outbreak.
The guidelines, call for Americans to wear cloth masks when in public, like an old t-shirt or bandana. This is meant to reduce the spread of the virus while stopping people from buying the medical-grade masks that are so badly needed in hospitals. But some African Americans are worried about the potential danger in wearing a homemade face covering.
In Miami an officer handcuffed a black doctor who was wearing a protective mask outside his own home; the incident is being investigated. A police officer followed two black men wearing surgical masks out of an Illinois Walmart. The officer asked for IDs after wrongly telling the men that a city ordinance prohibited wearing masks. These incidents are now factoring into many Americans’ decisions over whether to wear a mask in public.
Anxiety about mask-wearing is another factor complicating COVID-19’s impact in America’s black communities. Early data shows that the virus is killing a disproportionate number of black people. The lopsided death toll is likely due to healthcare inequalities, higher population density and other factors that make black and other minority communities more vulnerable to the outbreak.
The time will eventually come for a gradual return to normal. Some are worried that, if mask-wearing remains part of everyday life, it could result in a spike in racially-motivated incidents.
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