‘Our normal is not normal anymore’: Social media campaign aims to stop the stigma of wearing face masks

Coronavirus

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) ─ By Saturday, all essential employees, and all Rhode Islanders who are out in public, should be wearing a cloth mask to protect themselves and others against the coronavirus, Gov. Gina Raimondo announced Tuesday.

Raimondo said there are only two exceptions to the mandate: Children under 2 years old do not need to wear a mask, as well as anyone whose job would be hindered by wearing a mask.

Under the new mandate, employers will be required to provide masks to all of its employees. Raimondo said she delayed implementation until the weekend to give people a few days to prepare.

The order also requires customer-facing businesses to ensure that customers are also complying with the mandate. While acknowledging “it feels strange,” she said wearing a mask will be “the new normal” when parts of the economy begin to reopen.

“For the next year or so, we’re going to be living under a new set of regulations,” Raimondo said. “My goal is: most number of people back to work, fastest, at lowest risk.”

Raimondo said the R.I. Department of Business Regulation will be doing spot checks to review compliance with the new order, and while fines are possible, she urged people to simply follow the new rule rather than look for ways to avoid doing so.

“I’m sure many of you are saying ‘I’m not going to do that, it’s weird, it feels funny, I don’t know if it helps anyways.’ To you I am saying: you have to do this,” she said.

That type of thinking is what the “Mask Up RI” campaign is trying to stop, according to Style Week Northeast’s Rosanna Ortiz.

The recently launched campaign, which is a team effort between Rhode Island Commerce, Go Providence and Styleweek, is collecting photos of Rhode Islanders wearing masks or face coverings.

The photos are then posted to the campaign’s social media account in an effort to stop the stigma of “masking up.”

“The more photos we get, the more we’re helping spread the word, and the more awareness we can proliferate,” Ortiz said.

The goal is to get Rhode Islanders more comfortable with the idea of wearing a mask in public – while also encouraging creativity.

“You feel weird the first time you go out in a mask, you’re like ‘What am I doing?’ So what Rosanna and I are trying to do is make it normal and show that there are so many people from different walks of life that are doing this and that’s what I love about this campaign, we’ve gotten so many submissions from so many types of people, ages of people,” Go Providence’s Kristen Adamo said.

Ortiz said since the campaign launched last Thursday, they’ve received more than 200 submissions.

“It’s a historic moment,” Ortiz said. “Our normal is not normal anymore. It can be a fun new aesthetic, like ‘Oh a new accessory,’ but at the end of the day, we are saving lives and we’re being smart.”

“Trying to marry those two things has really been a good thing to do,” she added.

Mask Up RI is also helping connect Rhode Islanders with those who are making masks and face coverings.

Want to submit a photo to Mask Up RI?

Send it in a message to the campaign’s Twitter or Instagram account, or use the hashtag #MaskUpRI »

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