In the United States, it doesn’t help that masks sometimes come with negative cultural connotations. Saha says masks in American pop culture are often linked to mischief and ill deeds. “If you ask the average American, [wearing masks] is associated with gang culture, and if you think about every Western you’ve ever seen, it’s the bad guys that are wearing the masks that are bandannas,” she says. People who fear being targeted by law enforcement might determine that the risk of being mistaken for a criminal is worse than the risk the virus poses.
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