a couple wearing a face mask
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Wear the damn mask, New York! Now More Than Ever


Wear the damn mask! Especially here in New York. What on earth are you thinking? We want this city and this state reopened. Don’t blow it now.

Spring 2020.

By David Stone

The Roosevelt Island Daily News

Can we all agree that we want our cities and towns reopened? That we all want to get back to normal? Want it sooner than later?


Wear the damn face mask!

Let’s Get Real

Something special happened yesterday, but it wasn’t a good special. New coronavirus cases all went up. In New York City, the epicenter. In New York State, the one hardest hit, its budget in shambles. And across the country.

The United States recorded 28,429 new cases yesterday and 2,390 deaths. Let that sink in. New York City jumped from 112 new coronavirus hospital admissions on Monday to 136 on Tuesday.

As a reporter watching New York City closely, I wasn’t surprised. Over the past couple of weeks, you could see the carelessness creep higher.

The better daily reports by Governor Cuomo went, the worse the public got.

On a sunny Saturday on the Upper East Side and in Central Park, most people wore face masks. But many didn’t.

They passed on sidewalks without separating, and they strolled casually by the Conservatory Water with children inches away. And seniors.

When we got home, there was more bad news. RIOC, the State agency managing Roosevelt Island, shut down a park because of rampant social distancing violations.

Wear the damn mask… Please.

It’s not as if you’re asked to sit in a dentist’s chair for an hour, your mouth open, metal tools passing in and out. You can walk outside. You can get some fresh air.

But if you want things back to normal, any time soon, you need to wear a mask and keep your distance.

This is exactly what we’re not doing.

Yet, the rules are easy: When you go outside, bring a face mask. Any time you can’t stay at least six feet away from another, wear the damn mask!

So, why are we getting worse?

Unintended Consequences

A visit to Central Park, a place I use like a lab, comparing and observing, alarmed me yesterday.

In contrast, just two weeks ago, wearing face masks in public in an isolating Manhattan was so common, I thought about a photo essay: Empty City I’d call it.

Shots down a car-free Fifth Avenue. Normally busy sidewalks with only a scattering of people, all wearing masks.

I can’t get that now. But I might if we force them to close the city down tighter.

Because, sadly, Governor Andrew Cuomo’s inspired leadership has unintended consequences. Most of us “stay the course,” wear masks or stay home, but a growing minority sees success as license.

License to risk other people’s lives.

Yesterday in Central Park

It’s a rough estimate, but New Yorkers devolved from roughly 95% compliance to around 80% in two weeks. That probably explains the uptick in new infections.

News reports are clear that increasing carelessness is a national event.

But because we can’t count on the feds for anything, we must do better. We should already know this, but some of us don’t.

In Central Park yesterday, we saw dozens of runners and bicycle riders, breathing hard, in crowds, without masks. One women was coughing as she jogged, wiping her face with a bare arm.

A man, face flushed, coughing, sat on a bench to relax, no mask, while others of all ages walked on a path within a foot or two.

More upsetting, honestly, were the smug couples not wearing masks, weaving in an out of foot traffic, too special to be bothered.

So, wear the damn masks already. Here’s why…

  • Thousands of people die every day from coronavirus infections, 6,500 in the world, just yesterday, nearly 2,400 in the U.S. It’s far from over, folks.
  • Tens of thousands of healthcare and public service workers risk their lives every day in fierce battles to save lives… while some won’t pull up a face mask to stop the spread.
  • Clueless national leadership encourages the viral spread. We’re pretty much on our own, you and me, and we need to protect each other.
  • Economic catastrophe awaits. Every hour spent careless increases the damage. Normal recedes in the distance.
  • Every developed country in the world does better than us. Where’s your pride and your patriotism now? We have 4% of the world’s population… and more than 30% of the coronavirus deaths and infections.
  • Because it’s up to you. Period. There aren’t enough Andrew Cuomos in the world if we aren’t willing to help each other.


There is no rousing finish here. No call to action. If you won’t listen to the governor’s pleading for your cooperation, you won’t listen to me either.

But won’t you do it for yourself? Do your part in getting our cities, states and nation back on track.

Do it for neighbors, for families isolating for six weeks, binge-watching TV, while praying that online supplies last.

How about my 95-year-old friend, a doctor who saved thousands of lives by pioneering treatment for high blood pressure in the 1950s? He’s stuck at home while his daughter dies of cancer, thousands of miles away.

And, yeah, do it for my son, a public service worker with three kids and a wife at home. And millions of other sons and daughters doing the dirty work to keep people alive and systems running.

Is it really so hard to wear the damn mask? Really?


  1. Maybe one shouldn’t be going from RI to Central Park to stroll around in the first place….?

    • Maybe one should be aware that fresh air and exercise are significant benefits to well-being, and that extreme overreactions carry hazards all their own. There’s no good reason why anyone who is well should not get out and enjoy the parks in good weather, but wear a mask and practice social distancing. You can do whatever you think best for yourself, but that’s a personal choice, not something to force on others.

  2. I wonder, when I see them, what kind of people just disregard the guidelines that are set forth to protect others as well as ourselves?

    • It give me pause, too, Irene, and if it was just about themselves, I’d say, “Live and let live.” But we are in this together. Why risk other people’s lives, or even from a selfish point of view, why risk extending the shutdown by spreading the virus carelessly.
      I don’t get it. We’re in this together. Does everyone get that?

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