Mask Shaming: Suburbia’s New Sport

by Kerry Dougherty

That’s it. I’m done. I just deleted that good neighbor app from my phone. The one I used to peruse when I was bored to see photos of lost cats, dog droppings in inappropriate places or to find the occasional interjection: What was that noise?

But in the past few weeks this app has gone from being a place where you could gauge your neighborhood’s degree of crazy to a carnival of mask-shaming and name-calling.

Every few minutes I seem to get an email alerting me to yet another snippy message from someone who spotted someone without a mask and wants to make sure everyone knows about it.

Seems a lot of folks are counting people who are wearing masks, calculating the percentages of the unmasked and dutifully tattling on the stores allowing folks in without a face covering.

The Karens love it.

The most recent crop goes something like this:

Went to X store about two hours ago and 20% of the people in the store had no masks.

Thanks. That’s another place I won’t shop.

I’m done with X.

Just saw several people at Y hardware not wearing masks.

Responsible people follow directions!

Never stepping foot in Y again!

Z supermarket is not enforcing the mask law. I will not be shopping there anymore.

Thank you. Neither will I.

I was in the bank  on Saturday and 50% of the people were not wearing masks.

That one stopped me. Complaining because customers at a BANK weren’t masked up? All right then. We’ve officially gone mad.

On and on the indignant people prattle, vowing to report these dangerous places of business to the health department and demanding to know why the retailers aren’t vigorously enforcing the governor’s order.

Contrarians opposed to the mask mandate occasionally jump in and taunt the pro-maskers.

It’s not very neighborly.

I hesitate to point this out to the masketeers, but Gov. Ralph Northam’s executive order carves out a huge exception for anyone suffering from a health condition that’s incompatible with face coverings. The governor mentioned COPD and asthma. There are other illnesses that can worsen with a 5% to 20% reduction in oxygen.

Migraines, for instance.

Oh and people with these invisible health conditions are not required to disclose them to curious members of the public or store owners. The Americans with Disabilities Act makes it illegal to interrogate a person about the nature of their health problems.

Of course some of the busybodies have that covered: They assume that the unmasked are parading around with fake health conditions.

Oh, please. Could y’all just stop?

The militant pro-maskers ought to know that the The American Lung Association reckons 24 million Americans suffer from COPD. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that 19 million American adults have asthma. And the American Migraine Foundation figures that 38 million folks suffer from debilitating headaches.

That’s a lot of people who shouldn’t be wearing masks.

Still, it apparently hasn’t occurred to these snitches that the people they’re demanding be booted from local shops might have a legitimate reason to be bare-faced.

On Monday afternoon I stopped in at a local hardware store to buy paint. As I checked out I asked the cashier if she was having a good day.

“Not really,” she sighed. “People have been screaming at me all day about people in the store who aren’t wearing masks.

“I tell them that I’m not allowed to ask about their health conditions,” she said, “But they’re threatening to boycott the store if we don’t get them out.”


This mask mandate is a pain. Even the local editorial board called it “half-baked.” The governor issued his edict a week ago and then ordered minimum wage workers to enforce it.

Here’s an idea: Stay healthy by doing what we’ve all been doing for months. Keep your distance and wash your hands. Wear a mask if you can.

Beyond that, just stay in your lane.

And please, stop berating poor shopkeepers who were deputized against their will to be enforcers of Northam’s half-baked mask mandate.

This column was published originally at

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19 responses to “Mask Shaming: Suburbia’s New Sport”

  1. ksmith8953 Avatar

    I have Neighbor as well, but in Petersburg, no problem or mention of masks. People think Petersburg is a bad place, it’s not.

  2. Nancy_Naive Avatar

    A meddlesome busybody app on your phone? Say it ain’t so, Joe, say it ain’t so.

  3. Steve Haner Avatar
    Steve Haner

    Would that this were the worst of our concerns right now. Kinda meaningless in perspective…But the Nextdoor app here was rife recently with reports of gunshots. Hey, Petersburg is full of great potential, but the gentrification movement that would save it would also be a source of friction. (Says the guy who’s parents retired to Colonial Whites across the river.)

    1. Atlas Rand Avatar
      Atlas Rand

      So many jokes I could go to here. Hadn’t thought about it as Colonial Whites in years. Seems more diverse these days though, more Indians and other asians for sure.

  4. TooManyTaxes Avatar

    We’ve got one in McLean who first tried to argue Northam made mask-wearing mandatory everywhere except in one’s home. The posting drew a bazillion objections. Next the guy claimed that runners and bikers without masks were spewing millions of COVID-19 viruses on sidewalks and paths. He is sticking with that story.

    What I’ve noticed is those people who are walking outside with masks and have a terrified look in their eyes as if they were being led to prison. I feel bad for people paralyzed by fear. It’s a very tough thing to handle.

  5. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
    Reed Fawell 3rd

    Kerry –

    You remember the Summer of 2017, that July and August? It was in Charlottesville. Those guys swinging sticks, and throwing rocks, and bags of human waste, in downtown Charlottesville?

    Remember how at the time all the state officials, Gov. Terry McAuliffe, Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, and Attorney General Mark Herring, how all stood aside, watching the carnage, letting all that stick swinging, rock hurling and bags of shit throwing, happen hour and after hour, as if they’d set it up.

    Remember all the guys there doing it, swinging and hitting, wearing all those masks, just like is happening right now 3 years later all over the country, in city after city?

    What is it about Virginia Politicians, and masks? Why do they love masks so?

  6. Steve Haner Avatar
    Steve Haner

    Dad’s gone so I’ll tell this story. He was city manager of Colonial Heights and after the 1980 census, got a question from a member or three of council. How did so many black people show up in that census? It wasn’t many, but far more than in 1970. The answer turned out to be a nursing home and that calmed them down. Since then, of course, much much more change, but it deserved the rap back in the day.

    1. ksmith8953 Avatar

      I moved to Petersburg in 1975. A lot has changed! I think people here take masks and other edicts as needed. But, it is a very blue city!

    2. Nancy_Naive Avatar


      I had some friends living in Colonial Heights in the 70s. One graduated VCU and became a dentist there. He died a couple years back and was the subject of some TV show. He and his wife had adopted some dozen special needs kids. Multi-racial. The whole nine yards.

      I wonder….

  7. LarrytheG Avatar

    Report from up Fredericksburg way – Masks are being worn by virtually everyone in the Home Depot, Lowes and Walmart. Almost all at the Pharmacy. Only a few at the power tool store. The credit union will only allow entry into the building on an appointment basis.

    People ARE (not all) wearing masks into the Post Office.

    The Doctor at my appointment REQUIRED the wearing of a mask and I was stopped at the entrance to the building first and temperature taken and questions asked. Temperature was taken again once in the Doctors office. The nurse did puts hands on to take blood pressure.

    I’ve seen some restaurants open that have open areas.

    I don’t know about the “shaming” but it appears to me that a significant number of people support wearing the masks.

  8. djrippert Avatar

    Out here in rural Maryland there is no problem. You wear a mask or you don’t go into a store. As far as I know there are no exceptions for “health issues”. Even when dining outside you need to have a mask if you want to go inside to use the restrooms. On Saturday I saw a group of likely tourists get turned away from a bayside restaurant for not having masks. Shrugged shoulders, no drama. I told the hostess that, given the prices being charged for local beer, the restaurant ought to keep a box of unused masks to give away to thirsty tourists on hot days. Or sell masks to the unmasked. She burst out laughing at the idea. As I was leaving she told me that she passed the idea along to the manager who decided to order cheap masks to sell or give away. As soon as I see a high schooler on summer break running a mask stand on the main tourist street in town I’ll know who to refer to my former employer as an entrepreneurship intern.

    As for people with COPD and asthma – are you kidding me? They shouldn’t be out in crowds right now even with a mask on. Talk about comorbidities! Only the Northam Administration could imagine a mask wearing exception for COPD patients to go out in public during the COVID19 outbreak.

    Northam needs to either mandate masks or not. If mandated then business owners need to refuse service to those not wearing masks. If mandated, anybody who refuses to wear a mask into a business should be referred to the local police. Shoes and shirts can be mandated in restaurants. Obviously intoxicated people can be refused service (it’s actually illegal to serve an obviously drunk person more booze). At the very least businesses in Virginia ought to be able to mandate masks (or not) for their own businesses.

    1. Nancy_Naive Avatar

      Make sure the restaurant prints their name on the masks… best ad space in the world is on somebody’s face.

  9. LarrytheG Avatar

    Have already seen pop-up stands selling masks.

    In terms of folks with co-morbidities being “out” – go take a look at how doctors are seeing patients – including those with co-morbidities.. – they’re NOT telling those with co-morbidities to “stay away”. Neither are the pharmacies where they get prescription drugs, nor are the service stations where they get fuel for their cars… ditto not at Walmart… etc…etc..

    Northam is not going to make masks mandatory because he’s figured out how to encourage peer pressure among individuals and getting businesses to do it – for the business sake – they don’t want their employees infected either…

    The bigger point here is that masks are common sense. No they are not bullet-proof. It’s more like going at a slow speed that the speed limit when weather or other conditions warrant.

    People are smart enough to know that it’s not just masks. It’s social distance, not congregating…not touching others even friends, checking door handles and gas pumps…etc..

    Most people BELIEVE the virus is real and are willing to take measures to protect themselves and others… a small minority is not.

    1. djrippert Avatar

      Doctors seeing patients are hopefully wearing industrial strength PPE – not a red Crips bandana tied to the back of their head. Pharmacies need to provide curbside pickup or make deliveries. People who are bedridden still get their prescriptions. Nobody gets wheeled on their beds into pharmacies.

      Northam won’t mandate masks because he is a weak and vacillating governor who should have never been elected to that position. His cowardice puts store owners at risk. If they enforce Northam’s wish-washy policy they run the risk of an ADA violation. If they don’t enforce they run the risk of an employee or customer suing over getting infected.

      Northam should either mandate masks or not. He’s not being clever with his BS approach, he’s being a weasel.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        Are masks mandated in Maryland? I think Conservatives were just waiting for Northam to mandate so they could jump all over him and he probably did feel that heat.

        And no, he’s not a person that likes confrontation… he tries to avoid it.
        “weak”, right?

        1. djrippert Avatar

          Here’s Gov Hogan’s order. Masks are mandated as far as I can tell. Conservatives in Virginia are confused. By vacillating and sort of, maybe mandating masks Northam has passed the risk onto business owners. Hogan has taken the risk onto the state government. Hard to imagine an ADA lawsuit against a store complying with the governor’s order. I guess you’d have to sue the government. Hard to sue a store owner for causing an infection if they follow the clear requirements of Hogan’s order. I guess you’d have to sue the government.

          Northam’s avoidance of confrontation only passes the confrontation onto the business owners and the public.

          Northam needs to either mandate masks or not. Protect the business owners trying to reopen.

          1. LarrytheG Avatar

            re: ” Masks are mandated as far as I can tell. ”

            you mean it’s not clear?

            but you’d be okay with Northam if he did it the way that Hogan did?

    2. LarrytheG Avatar

      This is from Medicare:

      Running Essential Errands
      Grocery Shopping, Take-Out, Banking, Getting Gas, and Doctor Visits

      What you need to know
      Stay home if sick.
      Use online services when available.
      Wear a cloth face covering when running errands.
      Use social distancing (stay at least 6 feet away from others).
      Use hand sanitizer after leaving stores.
      Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds when you get home.

      nary a word about staying home and hiding under the bed!

  10. I’ve been able to get some pushback on that, but I’ll be doing more. The mask deal was overblown in the first place, and the hostility to the handicapped, just what we always get. (One reason why the riot responses don’t surprise me, given the way the handicapped get crapped on, this is what happens.) Given NC and Tenn are getting business now because Northam hasn’t a clue, I’m hoping that and the retail associations are pushing like anything. I am. Fri started all these “events” and we don’t see mass fall out, so people have figured we’ve been hoodwinked. We need to have a 30 day limit on any “orders” and a General Assembly meeting called w/a supermajority on the Govs’ “orders” from now on. Too much abuse.

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