'Trust issues': Doctors explain psychological impact ditching masks will have on society

ByLeslie Brinkley KGO logo
Wednesday, June 16, 2021
No masks means working through 'trust issues,' doctors say
Doctors say there will be some social challenges to overcome as California removes face mask mandates for most settings.

WALNUT CREEK, Calif. (KGO) -- Our masks were a symbol of responsibility, of protecting other people. Now that California is going maskless, is continuing to wear one a sign of vulnerability or even paranoia?

Doctors say there is psychology at play.

RELATED: Where you still have to wear a mask as CA reopens

A new day dawned at the Tellus Coffee shop in downtown Walnut Creek, as the first customer came in with no mask on.

The owner, Janay McCullough said, "'Oh my God, my first maskless customer. It's so good to see your face,' and he ordered his coffee. Then three other groups came in after him that were all masked, saw he wasn't wearing a mask, and gave him the dirtiest looks."

Experts say that's the thing. Are we going to start judging others because they're still wearing a mask? Or judging them because they aren't wearing one? It's a big social change, and a big psychological change, that many people are going to have to wrestle with.

VIDEO: Unvaccinated children under 12 should still wear masks, Stanford doctor says

Stanford Dr. Yvonne Maldonado said that unvaccinated children under 12 should still wear masks when not social distancing.

In the early part of this transition to non-mask wearing, there are going to be some trust issues, according to Dr. Michael Stanton, a clinical psychologist as well as a public health professor at Cal State East Bay.

He says, "Whether you're wearing a mask or not, you're going to feel closer to people who are doing whatever you're doing. It takes about a month to change a habit, and for us to feel comfortable, so we may see a heightened level of anxiety for people who don't feel safe."

It was a mixed bag of people out on the streets. Some were still wearing masks, even outdoors. One man said that masks may be a kind of pacifier for some people, making them feel more comfortable.

RELATED: Newsom says vaccinated CAworkers won't have to wear masks after June 17

Jessie Karadonis was out without a mask with her four-month-old son. She said, "There are some people out there who are vaccinated and will continue to wear a mask - my husband is one of those people - and I'd say if that's what makes you feel safe, then go for it. "

Another maskless man admitted, "I don't want to push judgement, I know people who are immune compromised, but there's going to be some of that stigma to it."

Bottom line: Think of the next few weeks as a reintroduction to society. The transition starts now.

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