A new viral video shows people in Staten Island angrily yelling at a woman without a mask on to "get out" of a grocery store. The clip took off on Twitter this weekend, with users debating whether or not it is productive to enforce coronavirus safety measures by shame in this way. Many seemed to think that it was, since masks are meant to protect the people around the wearer, not the wearer themselves.
The video was filmed in a grocery store in Staten Island, New York, and posted on Reddit. Twitter user McAuley Holmes told Heavy that he did not film it, but it was his re-post that went viral. It showed a crowd of people all wearing masks calling a woman out for not wearing one, and demanding that she leave the store. They called her names including "filthy pig," and before long she backed up and hurried out of the store.
Holmes invited other Twitter users to chime in with their feelings on whether these shoppers had the right to shame the woman without a mask, and the discussion was lively. Holmes himself told Heavy that he had "mixed feelings" about the clip, saying: "It's understandable that people would be so serious about community enforcement in a place like Staten Island that has been hit so hard by COVID."
The CDC has been recommending that every American wear a mask or some kind of face covering when they leave the house since late March, with social distancing remaining the most important factor in preventing the spread of COVID-19. Among many people, masks have become the galvanizing issue, though health experts say that masks are meant to protect other people from the wearer's breath, not the other way around. This is important because a person can carry COVID-19 and be contagious for up to two weeks without showing symptoms, spreading it to others everywhere they go.
Aspects of the virus have been heavily politicized as well — particularly masks. However, Westworld star Jeffrey Wright remarked that this video showed a statistically conservative community enforcing mask rules on each other, perhaps because New York City and Staten Island have seen such extreme losses from the coronavirus.
"Staten Island is NYC’s most conservative borough. 56.05% voted for Trump in 2016. Population of 476,143 people and almost 800 confirmed COVID dead to this point," Wright tweeted. "Extrapolated over the U.S. population that's about 550,000 dead. So nah, they ain’t havin it."