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Why some won’t ditch their masks outdoors: ‘I’m not about to look like a Republican’

Massachusetts' relaxed rules for outdoor masking kick in on Friday.
Massachusetts' relaxed rules for outdoor masking kick in on Friday.David L. Ryan/Globe Staff

You can ditch your mask in most outdoor places in Massachusetts starting Friday, leading many to breathe a sigh of relief. But here’s an unexpected reason some are choosing to keep it firmly on: the chance they could be mistaken for an anti-masker.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Tuesday that fully vaccinated folks can remove their masks in certain situations outside, such as when they’re exercising, dining, or attending small gatherings with other vaccinated people.

Governor Charlie Baker announced his new rules the same day, which say you only have to mask outdoors in places you can’t socially distance from others.

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People soon took to TikTok and Twitter celebrating with a breath of fresh air, but some quickly realized things could get awkward. And who wants to risk being mask-shamed?

@footdocdana

The CDC issued new mask guidelines today. Fully vaccinated people don’t need to wear a mask outside! (Exception: large gatherings)

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@oledanyeller

the anxiety of looking like an inconsiderate fool is worse than wearing this thing #adhd #anxiety #wearamask #vaccinated #greenscreen

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Some explicitly said they didn’t want to look like a Republican, drawing on how the debate over masks has often been politicized.

A more serious concern for some people was that there’s no easy way to tell if an unmasked person is actually vaccinated or not.

Baker’s rules for Massachusetts don’t distinguish between vaccinated and unvaccinated people, however, which means anyone can unmask as long as they socially distance outdoors, where experts say the risk of spreading COVID-19 is much lower.

But there’s always the fact that going mask-less now basically feels like stepping outside without pants.



Sahar Fatima can be reached at sahar.fatima@globe.com Follow her on Twitter @sahar_fatima.