Mask refusal

A protest banner sign in Biberach an der Riß, Germany, during the COVID-19 pandemic: Freheit ohne Maske ("Freedom without a Mask")

Mask refusal is opposition to requirements involving face coverings. Such opposition can occur during a pandemic, when health experts recommend wearing face coverings in order to reduce the spread of disease, causing municipalities or private establishments to require face masks as a public health measure. An individual opposing a mask requirement may be known as an anti-masker.

The criteria for, and exceptions to, face mask requirements has been an ongoing topic during the COVID-19 pandemic. The tenor of mask refusal incidents may escalate into confrontations of verbal abuse, or in extreme cases might become violent. Mask refusers engaged in such confrontations may be arrested or criminally prosecuted. Videos of these incidents, occurring in locations from retail stores to airplanes, have been seen in the news and social media and have frequently gone viral.


Seattle police officers wearing gauze masks in December 1918, during the Spanish flu pandemic

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] On 26 September, 2021, a man surnamed Yang assaulted a female supermarket worker in Gaoshu, Taiwan, who had asked him to put on a mask. He proceeded to gouge her eyes, causing retinal detachment and possible loss of sight.[4] In October 2021, a Taiwanese woman surnamed Chen knived another woman surnamed Wang over 10 times for asking her to put on a mask. Chen was detained for attempted murder but released on bail the same day.[5]

Legal background

There is 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.[6] As for statutes, no federal law requires individuals to wear face masks in an effort to preserve public health.[7] However, the executive branch is authorized to make any regulations necessary in preventing the spread of diseases into and within the United States.[8]

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.[9] Following this guidance, President Biden signed an executive order in January 2021 requiring individuals to wear face masks on all federal property.[10] In addition, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) requires passengers to wear face masks when traveling on all transportation networks.[11] 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.[12]


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,[13] 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.[14] Some people do not wear a face mask on medical grounds and are legally exempt from having to wear one.[15]

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.[16] In addition, men have been seen as more likely to refuse wearing masks, seeing them as a threat to their masculinity.[17][18] Refusal to wear face masks is also linked to vaccine hesitancy or anti-vaccination sentiment, political conservatism,[19] rural dwelling,[20][21] and non-adherence to public hygiene rules, or social distancing guidelines.[14] 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.[22]


Consequences for mask refusal or improper mask-wearing can range from anything from public shaming[23][24] (including calling women who refuse to wear masks "Karens"[25]), ejection or banning from an establishment either temporarily or permanently,[26][27][28] criminal prosecution,[29][30] and contracting or spreading a contagious disease such as COVID-19.[31]

See also

  • Incorrect mask usage


  1. ^ a b Smith, Kiona N. "Protesting During A Pandemic Isn't New: Meet The Anti-Mask League Of 1918". Forbes. Retrieved 2021-05-30.
  2. ^ Stewart, Emily (7 August 2020). "Anti-maskers explain themselves". Vox. Retrieved 27 May 2021.
  3. ^ "Anti-lockdown protests erupt across Europe as tempers fray over tightening restrictions". France 24. 21 March 2021. Retrieved 27 May 2021.
  4. ^ "3分鐘驚悚影片!惡男沒戴口罩竟抓狂 屏東超商女店員慘被「徒手挖眼睛」 | 蘋果新聞網 | 蘋果日報". 蘋果新聞網 (in Chinese (Taiwan)). 2021-09-29. Retrieved 2022-02-16.
  5. ^ "【挖眼案翻版再現】北市女女勸鄰居戴口罩遭砍 兇手交保後強制就醫". (in Chinese). Retrieved 2022-02-07.
  6. ^ "Jacobson v. Massachusetts, 197 U.S. 11 (1905)". Justia Law. Retrieved 2021-10-14.
  7. ^ "Could the President or Congress Enact a Nationwide Mask Mandate?". CRS Reports. August 6, 2020.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  8. ^ "U.S.C. Title 42 - THE PUBLIC HEALTH AND WELFARE". Retrieved 2021-11-04.
  9. ^ "Use Masks to Slow the Spread of COVID-19". Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2021-08-12. Retrieved 2021-11-04.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  10. ^ "Executive Order on Protecting the Federal Workforce and Requiring Mask-Wearing". The White House. 2021-01-21. Retrieved 2021-10-14.
  11. ^ "TSA extends face mask requirement through January 18, 2022 | Transportation Security Administration". Transportation Security Administration. Retrieved 2021-10-14.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  12. ^ "Penalty for refusal to wear a face mask | Transportation Security Administration". Transportation Security Administration. Retrieved 2021-10-14.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  13. ^ Lehmann, Eliyahu Y.; Lehmann, Lisa Soleymani (September 2021). "Responding to Patients Who Refuse to Wear Masks During the Covid-19 Pandemic". Journal of General Internal Medicine. 36 (9): 2814–2815. doi:10.1007/s11606-020-06323-x. ISSN 0884-8734. PMC 7590988. PMID 33111236.
  14. ^ a b Taylor, Steven; Asmundson, Gordon J. G. (2021-02-17). "Negative attitudes about facemasks during the COVID-19 pandemic: The dual importance of perceived ineffectiveness and psychological reactance". PLOS ONE. 16 (2): e0246317. Bibcode:2021PLoSO..1646317T. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0246317. ISSN 1932-6203. PMC 7888611. PMID 33596207.
  15. ^ "Covid: Passes required for fans Wales v New Zealand match". BBC News. 30 October 2021.
  16. ^ Ayalon, Liat (14 April 2020). "There is nothing new under the sun: ageism and intergenerational tension in the age of the COVID-19 outbreak" (PDF). International Psychogeriatrics. 32 (10): 1221–1224. doi:10.1017/S1041610220000575. PMC 7184144. PMID 32284078.
  17. ^ Palmer, Carl L.; Peterson, Rolfe D. (9 July 2020). "Toxic Mask-ulinity: The Link between Masculine Toughness and Affective Reactions to Mask Wearing in the COVID-19 Era" (PDF). Politics & Gender. 16 (4): 1044–1051. doi:10.1017/S1743923X20000422. ISSN 1743-923X.
  18. ^ Capraro, Valerio; Barcelo, Hélène (11 May 2020). "The effect of messaging and gender on intentions to wear a face covering to slow down COVID-19 transmission". PsyArXiv. arXiv:2005.05467. doi:10.31234/ S2CID 218596304.
  19. ^ Latkin, Carl A.; Dayton, Lauren; Yi, Grace; Colon, Brian; Kong, Xiangrong (2021-02-16). "Mask usage, social distancing, racial, and gender correlates of COVID-19 vaccine intentions among adults in the US". PLOS ONE. 16 (2): e0246970. Bibcode:2021PLoSO..1646970L. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0246970. ISSN 1932-6203. PMC 7886161. PMID 33592035.
  20. ^ Padilla, Mariel (2 June 2020). "Who's Wearing a Mask? Women, Democrats and City Dwellers". The New York Times. Retrieved 27 May 2021.
  21. ^ Haischer, Michael H.; Beilfuss, Rachel; Hart, Meggie Rose; Opielinski, Lauren; Wrucke, David; Zirgaitis, Gretchen; Uhrich, Toni D.; Hunter, Sandra K. (2020-10-15). "Who is wearing a mask? Gender-, age-, and location-related differences during the COVID-19 pandemic". PLOS ONE. pp. e0240785. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0240785.
  22. ^ Hao, Feng; Shao, Wanyun; Huang, Weiwei (2021-03-01). "Understanding the influence of contextual factors and individual social capital on American public mask wearing in response to COVID–19". Health & Place. 68: 102537. doi:10.1016/j.healthplace.2021.102537. ISSN 1353-8292. PMC 7894115. PMID 33636596.
  23. ^ Marcus, Julia (23 June 2020). "The Dudes Who Won't Wear Masks". The Atlantic. Retrieved 27 May 2021.
  24. ^ Ruiz, Rebecca (19 July 2020). "Don't shame people who don't wear masks. It won't work". Mashable. Retrieved 27 May 2021.
  25. ^ Bhasin, Tavishi; Butcher, Charity; Gordon, Elizabeth; Hallward, Maia; LeFebvre, Rebecca (2020-12-02). "Does Karen wear a mask? The gendering of COVID-19 masking rhetoric". International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy. 40 (9/10): 929–937. doi:10.1108/IJSSP-07-2020-0293. S2CID 224923818.
  26. ^ Todd, Carolyn L. (2 February 2021). "Delta Has Now Banned Nearly 1,000 Passengers for Not Following Mask Rules". Self. Retrieved 15 June 2021.
  27. ^ Michaelsen, Shannen (15 September 2020). "VIDEO: Maskless Man Ejected from Disney's Hollywood Studios Today While Screaming Misquotes from Pixar's "A Bugs Life"". WDW News Today. Retrieved 26 June 2021.
  28. ^ "Tesco, Asda and Waitrose ban shoppers without face masks". BBC News. 12 January 2021. Retrieved 15 June 2021.
  29. ^ "Caught multiple times without a face mask? You may face a criminal case". Deccan Herald. 2 October 2020. Retrieved 15 June 2021.
  30. ^ Shiel, Tom (17 December 2020). "Two months in jail for man wearing mask on head 'like a hat'". The Irish Times. Retrieved 15 June 2021.
  31. ^ "COVID-19 and Your Health". Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 11 February 2020. Retrieved 22 December 2021.

Media files used on this page

Ambox globe content.svg
A globe icon in the Ambox-content style. This icon is used for important issues relating to the world and for stating the bias of worldwide information.
Seattle Police Department officer number 271, Trio of coppers in 1918 detail, from- 165-WW-269B-25-police-l (cropped).jpg
Policemen in Seattle wearing masks made by the Red Cross, during the influenza epidemic. December 1918.