“You should be ashamed of yourself,” a stranger told Clara Kribs as she crossed a crosswalk along 43rd and Broadway in the Westport neighborhood of Kansas City last Tuesday.
The stranger, a woman, was looking Kribs and her children up and down. Her two sons, aged 6 and 9, wore masks – outside.
“You don’t have to wear masks,” the woman continued.
Kribs was crazy. It was the second time in less than a month that someone in Kansas City had questioned their family’s decision to continue wearing masks.
“I said, ‘Why are you so afraid of a little piece of cloth? It’s just a mask, ”Kribs said. “And she said to me, ‘Well, you’re the one scared, variant,’ and I was like, oh my God.”
The word “variant,” Kribs said, was accompanied by aerial quotes when the woman berated her. The belief that COVID-19, as well as the delta variant, is a hoax has always been a factor in hesitation in the face of vaccination and therefore the increase in cases across the country.
About a week after Kribs was accosted on the street, Kansas City officials announced a new mask warrant that will take effect on August 2. The mandate will require all people five years of age or older, regardless of their immunization status, to wear a mask in indoor public spaces.
Kribs’ husband works in health care and they have witnessed the severity of COVID-19, she said. Although the couple are vaccinated, they have decided to continue wearing masks and to encourage their children to do the same – they are too young to be vaccinated.
She feels like people are getting mad at them for this, despite advice from local health agencies as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advising people to continue to wear masks in certain situations.
At the end of June, Kribs took his children to have their hair cut. As the three of them left the company with masks on, a man pulled over in his car to shout at them, “You don’t have to wear masks outside. It’s ridiculous.”
Her children were confused, she said. They didn’t understand why there was a problem with the masks.
Being called out to want to protect her family has frustrated her, Kribs said.
“I felt like I should have clarified, what exactly should I be ashamed of?” Kribs said. “Take care of my children? In the heat of the moment, I obviously didn’t think about it. But I’ve been thinking about it since last week. You know, relive it.
Wearing a mask: a subject that divides
Wearing masks has divided since the start of the pandemic. News organizations across the country have reported cases in which discussions about wearing masks have turned into physical altercations.
In August 2020, THV11 in Arkansas reported that a 64-year-old woman from Little Rock told police she was verbally harassed and beaten by young men for wearing a face mask in the parking lot of a grocery store. Weeks later, ABC7 in New York reported that a 68-year-old security guard was slashed in the face while taking the subway. He said it was because he was wearing a mask, which his attacker was not, according to the story.
Similar incidents have occurred this year.
The Arizona family reported earlier this year that a gift shop owner fired a gun at a customer for failing to comply with his “no mask” policy, then refused to leave.
In early May, two women were attacked in New York City by a stranger who told them to remove their face masks, USA TODAY reported. They said one of the women was hit on the head by a hammer which caused a laceration, police said.
And in an Aldi in Omaha on Tuesday, a man who was not wearing a mask spat on it and shot a BB gun at a masked man, according to the Omaha World-Herald.
“I asked him why he would do that and he said, ‘You’re on the other team,’” said the man, who asked not to be identified, reported the Omaha World-Herald.
The warrants for the masks return to Kansas City
As COVID-19 cases in the Kansas City metro area continue to rise at rates not seen since January, health officials have reiterated the use of masks and vaccination is crucial to stop the spread in the region.
In late June, the World Health Organization suggested that due to the spread of the highly contagious delta variant, even vaccinated people should wear face masks when possible.
“People cannot feel safe just because they have received both doses. They still need to protect themselves… vaccines alone will not stop community transmission, ”said Dr Mariangela Simao, WHO Deputy Director-General for Access to Medicines and Health Products, during a presentation. virtual press conference on June 25. “People must continue to use masks consistently, be in ventilated spaces, hand hygiene, respiratory etiquette, physical distance, avoid overcrowding. “
Along with Mayor Quinton Lucas’ announcement of a mask warrant on Wednesday, other cities such as Los Angeles and St. Louis have also reinstated mask warrants.
About two weeks ago, ten Kansas City area health agencies issued a joint public health advisory recommending masks for people who are not fully vaccinated in crowded outdoor settings and indoor public places. The advisory also said people vaccinated should be careful with people whose vaccination status is unknown.
Kansas City health officials also continue to encourage Kansas citizens to get vaccinated to avoid an increase in hospitalizations related to COVID-19.
“I’m anxious now”
Kribs said she feels anxious when her family goes out with a mask, even if they go inside somewhere.
The thought of having to face someone who disapproves of wearing masks, especially in front of their children, worries Kribs. She said she didn’t want them to hear anything rude or inappropriate. She also doesn’t want them to be nervous about wearing their masks, she said.
“I’m afraid someone will tell us something. I’m on the alert, ”Kribs said. “I feel like I have to be prepared with an arsenal of quick returns to leave us alone.”
Even with the new mandate, she is still worried.
The warrant will only make people angrier, she said. She predicts the disagreement over masks will worsen.
“Some people are annoyed, they feel it is infringing on their freedoms, and I think it continues,” Kribs said. “So when they see someone wearing a mask, they are triggered and they feel like they have to say something to express their great feelings.”