All around the country, mask mandates are being lifted. New York City made masks optional in public schools as of March 7 and said indoor venues will no longer have to check for proof of vaccination. California just lifted its mask mandate, as well. And the same is happening rapidly around the country.
Judging by how many unmasked people I see on the streets of New York, much of the public seems to be ready for this. But the transition is bringing some angst to the school system. Many students say they feel exposed when going to school without a mask for the first time in two years—to the point that news outlets have coined a new syndrome: “No-mask anxiety.” Some students liked it better when they could take cover behind the masks. It was a little like turning the camera off during online school.
But doctors say it’ll ultimately be a good thing for young people—and all of us, for that matter—to see other people’s faces, and facial expressions.
A lot of communication is nonverbal, and we’ve missed out on seeing each other’s smiles and frowns for a good two years now, except on Zoom. As a business leader, I can see many advantages to removing masks at the negotiating table, during sales pitches, or in performance reviews and other sensitive workplace conversations. Reading the expression in someone’s eyes can only go so far, especially if they’re wearing glasses that are fogged up because of a mask.
For the time being, the great unmasking could be a boon to industries that help people put their best face forward. I won’t be surprised to see an uptick in sales of cosmetics, shaving cream and even sunscreen. Based on the size of the crowds at our local restaurants here in New York City, people are coming back out in droves, and they are leaving pandemic style behind.
That said, this probably isn’t a final farewell to masks. Just when we thought Omicron was gone, the BA.2 variant has been rearing its head. China is imposing strict lockdowns, and the TSA has extended the mask mandate for air travel until April 18. As always, we’ll be keeping a close eye on the headlines to make sure we can keep our team and our clients safe.
Let’s hope that the warm weather that’s arrived will get people outside and work to our advantage when it comes to keeping everyone healthy. Many local eateries and attractions are ready for more visitors. Whether you’ve opted to keep your mask on for a while longer, or to tuck it away, now is the perfect time to get out and support them.
Earlier this week the Federal Reserve increased interest rates by 25bps or 1/4% in an attempt to start to get inflation under control. And the stock market reacted favorably with a 500-point increase on the Dow the same day. This increase is obviously the first of several to come, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it was the first of many to come this year. Interest rates and inflation have been at 40-year historical lows for the last several years and, as with everything, this benefited some while hurting others. Let’s hope the Fed’s medicine is what’s needed to keep inflation in check.