To mask or not to mask

tips to have guests wear a mask

Canada is dealing with the aftermath of its own Thanksgiving. Three weeks after celebrating its holiday in October, the country is seeing a national spike in COVID-19 cases despite widespread mask-wearing mandates. That’s one reason the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its holiday guidance amid a new surge in U.S. cases, recommending celebrants stay at home or gather outdoors in small groups. The CDC also advised would-be hosts to encourage guests to bring their own food and to avoid potluck-style gatherings.

Traditions have been established that the holidays are meant to be spent with family and friends. Here are a few tips to keep your small gatherings safe.

Masks Work

The evidence is clear: Masks reduce the spread of COVID-19. If you are planning an in-person gathering over the holidays with others outside your household, health officials advise that those preparing or serving food for guests wear a mask. So what do you do if a relative of yours refuses to wear one?

Mask Your Contempt

If faced with a mask-averse participant, social psychologists say it is important not to talk down to them. Name-calling and condescension rarely win people over. Instead, try figuring out their motivations for not wearing one and where they fall on the spectrum of mask wearing. Emphasize compassion and empathy and how wearing a mask will protect the most vulnerable in the group. And remember: Asking someone to wear one rather than just telling them to is always better.

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner Without One?

It may depend on who is in your family. According to an August Gallup poll, just 42 percent of white people wear masks outdoors when social distancing is not possible, compared to 60 percent of nonwhite people. Democrats were almost three times as likely to mask up outside as Republicans, and women were far more likely to do so than men.

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Tipping Points

Also remember: Weird or unpopular behaviors can, and do, often become cultural norms, especially when they limit harm. Remember the smoking section of the airplane? People under the age of 40 today do not. And social norms can also change rapidly: In one recent online experiment conducted by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania, the critical mass for such a norm change was about 25 percent of participants. And despite early resistance and noisy no-mask protests, 92 percent of Americans asked in a recent Morning Consult poll say they wear a face mask when leaving their home.

Although these smaller gatherings and fewer live encounters are a downer this year, there is one upside: You can mute your crazy uncle on Zoom if need be.

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