From a first person point of view, blogger Ellie Haak, will first discuss her experience of the beginning (to present) of COVID-19, her mask usage, and finally into Masks & Criminality.

On March 11, 2020, everything started changing. It started off as any other normal spring day at college; sunny and warm. I had woken up, grabbed my phone and started scrolling though my media platforms, like I do every morning. I checked the news which covered so e new virus that had infected some people in different parts of the world. Then I checked Snapchat and sent a couple of messages to the boy I was talking to. We had plans to go on a date. I put my phone away, rolled out of bed with my messy bun and baggy pajamas.

I strolled out of my residence hall down the paved walkways to grab a blueberry, peach, mango smoothie and proceeded to head to my communication class in one of the older buildings on campus. After meeting with my classmates for an in class assignment, the professor carried on with the lecture. Until everyone’s phones started ringing and buzzing at the same time. Looking from above, this scene could be compared to something you see in an apocalyptic movie. We all checked our phones and quiet murmurs began around the room. Out of the blue, the Governor of New York had tweeted,

“Starting March 19, @CUNY and @SUNY will move to a distance learning model for the rest of the semester. This will help us reduce the speed of the virus #COVID19.”

Andrew Cuomo, March 11, 2020

This meant that all students of the SUNY and CUNY system were cutting their semesters short and going home. Shortly after class had ended, I had rushed back to my dormitory. Several emails were sent out by the college’s administration board claiming their unknowingness of this statement provided by Governor Cuomo and their next steps that were being determined.

My friends and I screamed at the top of our lungs from the lack of information our college administration had given us, the confusion of what we contemplated on doing next, and the stress from the schoolwork backing our uncontrollable problem. But we weren’t the only ones. This unpredicted tweet meant the entire SUNY and CUNY system, so everyone else attending a state school were most likely feeling the same things.

I called my parents crying over the phone and I remember my father telling me,

“It’s going to get a lot worse before it gets better. So, pack everything up.”

Tim Haak, May 11, 2020

The last week we were all there, was a blur. Fraternities and Sororities crossed their new chapters in earlier than expected, the general student population partied the entire weekend, and packed up all their belongings a mere three days before moving out completely. We said goodbye to our sophomore year freedoms and said hello to a ton of news coverage, CDC guidelines, speeches from [former] President Donald Trump, and new rules society had to follow in order to protect themselves and others from COVID-19.

It’s hard to recall 2020 since it flew by so quickly, although quarantine made it feel like an eternity. Even though I had the luxury to stay home with my dog, do my homework in a queen sized bed instead of an extra-long twin, and got to binge watch Outer Banks on Netflix while sipping on my whipped iced coffee, it was still a hard transition.

Everything was closed, travel was put on pause, nobody attended work or school, stimulus checks were handed out to stimulate the economy, and updates regarding the pandemic were daily on each news and media platform. There was nowhere on the internet, within word of mouth, or one’s own thoughts that were not COVID related. It reprogrammed our society. But when the world reopened its doors to let in some fresh air, there were guidelines that followed behind.

On April 3, 2020, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended mask wear age and a six-foot social distancing guideline to the global population. At that point, most people had taken three sides…

1. Those who immediately obeyed to the mask mandate

2. Those who did not want to wear masks and brought up their [American] Rights

3. Those who didn’t care, but wore a mask anyway

To protect myself and others, I followed the recommendation and eventually most of the population also caught on as well. Although there are still some stragglers that still refuse to wear masks today, even though it’s been a year later. I’ll get into that later.

I wore a mask in public when I was around others outside my immediate household. That included my friends, my co-workers and bosses, and distant family members I don’t see quite often. I didn’t take my mask off unless I was by myself in a closed space, far enough away from others, or if I was around someone who felt comfortable without masks being worn. 

Towards the beginning of the mask mandate, I would social distance from my family members outside of my mom, my dad, and my younger sister, but that broke almost immediately since I am around them all the time anyways; they feel the same way.

One of the first masks I was was from one of my college friend’s mom. Her mom made homemade cloth masks from cotton fabrics she had purchased from Michael’s before the pandemic. She made them from whatever she had on hand. Tina (my friends mom) sewed in elastic bands through the fabric to stretch around the ears to stay in place. I tied mine because they were a little loose. Her masks resembled medical masks with pleats and a small opening to place another layer inside for extra protection. They came in a variety of colors and patterned fabrics. Tina instructed her customers to wash before wearing because, at that point in time, we didn’t know how contractible the virus was.

Unfortunately, I have lost contact with Tina’s daughter because of pandemic guidelines and keeping everyone safe. That’s another thing about this forever pandemic, even though this is a little off track. So many have lost precious connections within their social circles. Remember that boy I was talking to before Governor Cuomo sent out the tweet back on March 11, 2020? We had planned on going ice skating and out to dinner in Rochester, but that quickly got canceled. If anything, it postponed our first date until the middle of July. He’s my boyfriend now, but I guess I’m luckier than most.

My five year old cousin, Allie, attended preschool before the pandemic, made new friends and even had her first boyfriend! Then after schools were closed, and kids were kept in side for at home, distanced, online learning, she came up to me one Saturday morning at my Grandparent’s house sobbing and said,

“I want to back to school! I miss my friends!”

Allie, Age 5

It’s heartbreaking to see that, at such a young age, kids do not have the proper connections most did growing up. It makes a lot of sense how schools closed for everyone’s safety and well-being, but there’s nothing saying that everyone’s well-being is better than it was before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Also with kids, its hard to make social connections and putting names to faces when half of someone’s face is covered up. For me, at least, It’s difficult remembering names and faces. COVID stepped that problem up a bit. Relating back to Mask & Criminality, I guess because everyone else is wearing a mask and following COVID-19 guidelines, criminals who wore masks in the past are more likely to be overlooked because everyone is wearing them now.

There are so many different varieties of masks. But for me, I personally wear themed cloth masks from Wegmans’ grocery stores. They fit closely to my face, comfortably sit on my nose, and stretch from my chin with a seam crease down the center. Since I live in Buffalo, NY, they have a little buffalo mark on the side of the mask with holidays to match:



-Valentine’s Day

-St. Patrick’s Day

-Bill’s Mafia

Wegmans also sells them in solid colors or the died colors, restocked and rotated every month, that I’ve noticed. These represent the Buffalove Collection that all Buffalonians know (and love). These masks come in an adult and children sizes. Before COVID, you would not be able to find them because they were made when the pandemic hit. I like to wear them because they’re pretty, they match my outfits, they’re easy to wear and the styles are fun. Not to mention they show where I’m from. I’m almost positive that Wegmans sells the same masks at all their other stores, but with different imprints on them such as Buffalo, Rochester, and so on.

I also work at a popular donut shop in Upstate New York. I work long hour days most of the time, so instead of potentially getting sugar, powder and frosting all over my nice cloth masks, I wear the provided disposable masks to cover me while I’m at work. Since the disposable masks are light and comfortable, hotter temperatures by a frier or under the summer sun is easily withstand-able. They keep to your face more closely with the small, bendable metal band where it bends over the nose. They are usually blue in color, but I’ve seen them that also come in green, pink, purple, and yellow.

Mask wear age was annoying at the beginning of 2020 when the CDC recommended them and when you needed to take one with you everywhere you went. They gave me acne when I had to wear them over the long, hot, summer days at work. Like I said, COVID altered the way society functions and thinks. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried to walk inside a store and forgot my mask. But this past winter, they were helpful with not only keeping everyone safe, but it kept my face warm from those nippy, negative temperatures New York tends to have.

But, like I said previously, not everyone complies with the mask mandate which shocks me to this day. It’s been over a year since the coronavirus walked to center stage, and just because you don’t feel comfortable wearing a mask, have freedoms, or are just stubborn, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. For the sake of you and everyone else’s health and safety. 

If I have learned anything from this continuous global pandemic and mask wear age is people’s significance in following the rules. We were taught wince we were young that following the rules is a good thing, and when they need to be broken, to do so in a manner that won’t harm anyone else. Not wearing a mask potentially harms others and puts them at risk of contracting the virus. If we all just wear masks and persevere through this pandemic, for however long it takes, we’ll protect ourselves and our loved ones in the long run. Those who wear their masks are the superheroes and those who don’t are the villains/criminals keeping this global pandemic going. 

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