By Dora Mekouar
VOA News
November 15, 2020

A year ago, if you saw someone wearing a mask, you might assume they were sick or maybe even a little weird or paranoid. Today, thanks to the pandemic, wearing a mask to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is the new normal for many Americans.

Thirty-four states and the District of Columbia require people to wear face coverings in public. But is it a habit that might outlast the pandemic?

“I do expect there to be somewhat of a lingering effect of habits that we picked up like wearing a mask as you leave your apartment or house,” says Dr. Barun Mathema, assistant professor of epidemiology at Columbia University in New York. “But, perhaps as the memory of the pandemic itself fades, so will these habits.”

Not all Americans have adopted mask-wearing, especially not those who view masks through a political lens. But pandemics have changed public habits in the past. Wearing a face covering is much more common in East Asia since the outbreak of SARS, a viral respiratory illness, in 2003.

However, the experts VOA talked to are doubtful many Americans will continue a mask habit post-pandemic.

“I assume that every time we have a flu and cold season, more people will be doing it [wearing masks], but I don't see this as a nationwide, brand-new custom, that we've learned our ways,” says Dr. Boris Lushniak, dean of the School of Public Health at the University of Maryland…….

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