'You feel naked': life after mask mandates

The masks that became ubiquitous with American life amid the pandemic might soon give way to more smiling faces.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control says those fully vaccinated against the novel coronavirus need not mask up outdoors in most cases.

But in Washington, D.C.’s Capitol Hill neighborhood, Anita Gluck isn’t yet ready to fully let go.

“I carry a mask, I wear a mask when I see another person so that that person won't be afraid of me and won't be afraid of getting infected, and doesn't have to think 'oh is she vaccinated' or whatever."

This week, many Americans have tentatively started taking off their masks.

And in Washington and other densely-populated areas which issued mask mandates, the change is going to take some getting used to.

AJ Barber is a student from Ohio.

"It feels weird, you feel naked if you don't go outside with a mask on. I mean, it's different, but I'll still go with my mask on most of the time."

Since nearly the beginning of the pandemic, public health officials have drilled into Americans the message that mask-wearing protects them and others from COVID-19.

At the same time, masks became a flashpoint in a U.S. political battle between Democrats and Republicans.

Many conservatives viewed mask mandates as in infringement on personal freedom, and an admission that the Republican president had failed to keep the country safe from a virus that has killed more than half a million Americans.

Democrats, backed by health officials, urged Americans to abide by mitigation measures - including masks - meant to slow the spread and save lives.

Wearing a mask, or refusing to do so, was sometimes seen as a political statement, or even a provocation.

Now, with mandates beginning to ebb, some are trying to move past that symbol of the pandemic.

Mark Grace is retired, and doing lawn work without a face covering.

"A year ago it was uncomfortable to wear a mask. Now it's become habit, it's uncomfortable to not wear a mask. I want to break myself of that habit and just project into normality."

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