Will you stop wearing a face mask now that it is voluntary to don one in public places?

Some will stop but there will be others who will keep the face mask to protect themselves. And those who choose to keep the mask should not be shamed or bullied or even asked why they still wear it.

In countries where face masks were no longer required, there were instances of people being harassed or called out for still wearing protective covering despite the relaxing of rules.

There were reports of “mask-shaming” or of people being bullied. No one should be criticized for wearing a face mask.

With the Malacañang executive order, the wearing of face masks is now optional or voluntary in indoor or outdoor settings. Face masks remain mandatory, however, in medical clinics, ambulances, and hospitals, and inside planes, boats, ferries, buses, taxis, and jeepneys as forms of public transportation.

The same order says the elderly, those with comorbidities, immunocompromised individuals, pregnant women, unvaccinated individuals, and persons exhibiting Covid-19 symptoms are encouraged to wear a face mask.

The Department of Health insists that the minimum public health standards such as frequent hand-washing, physical distancing, and ensuring good ventilation indoors be maintained as a precaution against the spread of the virus.

Some people have stopped donning face masks indoors or outdoors since government officials relaxed the rules. The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention relaxed mask mandates early this year. No arrests have been made since the middle of this year even as people without masks are seen inside taxis and jeepneys.

The change we will see with the implementation of the executive order will be that face masks will no longer be required inside malls, groceries, theaters, business offices, maybe churches, and in other places where people gather, unless these establishments make it a requirement.

Establishments should be allowed to decide to still require face masks. This may happen in churches, for example, that are beginning to fill up during Sunday mass. However, any establishment that insists on this could be questioned and their decision contested using the President’s executive order as the basis.

It is the right of the individual to wear a face mask, and the executive order makes sure the person has that choice. It is then not cool, not acceptable, to ask someone why he or she still wears a face mask. Do not criticize or judge those who prefer to protect themselves.

Advice to those who get asked why they wear a mask is to say you are sick, you do not want to get sick, you are immunocompromised, you live with elderly family members and you want to protect them, or the virus is still out there and people continue to die of Covid-19.

But then, it should not even be necessary to explain yourself.