Free of masks, free of masks, thank your lucky stars, we’re free of masks. After a year of hiding our faces from the world in hopes of stopping the spread of COVID-19, the CDC has officially set us free as of this week. If you have a vaccine, according to the latest guidelines, you no longer need to cover your face while out in public, indoors or outdoors.
“Today is a great day for America,” President Joe Biden said during a Rose Garden address heralding the new guidance, an event where he and his staff went without masks. Just a few hours earlier, while meeting with vaccinated Republican lawmakers, Biden led the group in removing their masks when the guidance was announced.
“If you are fully vaccinated, you no longer need to wear a mask. Get vaccinated — or wear a mask until you do,” he said.
After almost a year of wearing masks, Americans are suddenly faced with the unnerving reality that the rest of humanity will be able to see what the bottom half of their faces look like when they are out in public. The reactions on Twitter were swift – and hilarious.
From the self-deprecating:
“Pretty excited about the mask mandate going away… I can’t wait to come out to my Whole Foods cashier as a 4.”
“Personally, I’ll still be wearing a mask in public until further notice, because being freely ugly in peace is something I’m not willing to give up.”
To the existential:
“What does the CDC have to say about those of us who are drawn to a different kind of mask, the masks we wore well before the pandemic. the masks we use to cover up the anguish of moving through a treacherous world. the masks that don’t come off. Anyway thank you for this update,” wrote another.
To the forward-looking of what releasing us from masks will ultimately mean:
“The CDC recommends everyone start practicing wearing hard pants in 2-3-hour increments, working your way up to a full day.”
But in fact, a large swath of consumers are not going to slowly phase themselves back in – they are diving in face-first, though they are going to fix their faces a little before getting back out there, with the cosmetic accessory that’s been missing from all of our collective lives for the last year or so: lipstick. As women nationwide ran to their mirrors and looked at their foundation-free faces and pale lips, they came to the sobering realization that they would have to fix themselves up before venturing back out.
“What I definitely have not put on since March 10 of last year: lipstick. Why waste the stuff when my face is covered by a mask? But when the CDC announced that it would endorse easing up on outdoor face coverings for the vaccinated this week, I allowed myself to imagine a summer full of bright lips that leave kiss marks over iced coffee straws or corn on the cob,” one Daily Beast writer wrote of the coming change in the cosmetic weather.
As it turns out, there is a lot about buying lipstick that is easy to forget after a year – like how to navigate the maze of lurid but not actually descriptive names, like “Blackmail” or “Vice” for example. There is also, at least anecdotally, something of a lipstick rush going on at stores like Sephora, as those who’ve been trapped indoors all year needed very little prompting to return to wearing lipstick.
And yes, there are even predictions of what’s next in lipstick circulation. Charlene Valledor, self-described “lipstick girl” and president of SOS Beauty – an incubator company that has overseen the brand development, management, supply chain and production of companies like Patrick Ta Makeup – expects to see a lot of the classics out there soon.
“I think red is going to be the first choice for a lot of people,” she predicted. “It makes you feel brave and confident, and everyone wants to wear something that demonstrates how they feel inside.” She is also excited for “pinks and fuchsia and those positive colors that express enthusiasm about being outside.”
It all sounds glorious – but, of course, all of this freedom comes with a series of caveats. The CDC is not a legislative or regulatory body, meaning that just because they say you don’t have to wear a mask doesn’t mean you can simply strip it off and get back out there. Local municipalities have rules in place, and until those mask mandates are formally released, what the CDC says doesn’t much matter. California, for example, has strict mask rules consistent with the CDC’s previous mask guidance, and officials said they will remain in effect until they have studied the new recommendations, according to Los Angeles Times reports.
Moreover, federal officials said that more specific rules will likely be created by local governments regulating masks in places such as businesses, schools and other settings where it may be hard to determine who is or is not vaccinated.
And that uncertainty of people’s vaccine status might create more friction for SMB owners trying to figure out whether they’re still locally required to keep mask mandates – or if they should keep them in place for their employees to boost consumers’ confidence about entering their stores. The Washington Post reported that a large swath of vaccinated people continues to wear masks as a precaution, and that a large share of unvaccinated people plans to take theirs off, given that being mask-free will now be more socially acceptable.
Being mask-free, the world seems bent on reminding us, doesn’t mean the pandemic is over – it just means that the roughly half of the American population that is vaccinated can now start easing off on the restrictions. And it’s suddenly possible to imagine a world where those people can not only wear lipstick, but also have a place to wear that lipstick to, like a movie or a concert.
A world where dates aren’t virtual, and where getting dressed up means something other than finding one’s nicest pair of sweatpants to wear to a Zoom call.
The mask-free summer is starting. What will it look like as masks come off and pants with buttons come back on? The world eagerly awaits.
May 15, 2021 at 09:00AM