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Michiganders worried about 'mask shaming' as COVID restrictions lift in Michigan

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Posted at 4:46 PM, Jun 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-18 16:46:35-04

(WXYZ) — For many masks are coming off.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer lifted face mask requirements in most places effective June 22nd. Some people however say they will continue to wear masks and they are preparing for a new kind of mask shaming.

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WXYZ asked random people in downtown Royal Oak if they have ever been shunned for wearing a mask and soon heard stories.

Sahil Sewnani and Aarti Panchal say it happened to them recently as they vacationed in Florida. Tour guides taking them on an excursion didn’t think they needed masks.

“They were kind of mocking a little bit, like, 'oh, you think there is a virus that is going to attack you,'” said Sewnani.

“There was a lot of judgment, but we kept our mask on,” said Aarti Panchal.

It is a new kind of mask shaming. You see it play out on Facebook. We asked about whether people who wear masks feel judged and received hundreds of comments. One commenter said, “If you are still wearing a face diaper, you are a fool and need to remain locked up in your home.”

People we spoke to are calling for love and understanding.

“Everybody just needs to try to get along,” said David Cryberg, who wears a mask because he has diabetes.

“It’s just a cloth and not a big deal,” said Margo Broser, who respects the decisions of others.

“I am a health care worker. I had coronavirus. I have been vaccinated. But right about now, I am not ready to de-mask,” said Tracey Lasak, who in her work takes care of some people with compromised immune systems.

“It can be very scary,” said Aarolyn McCullough.

McCullough received a life saving liver transplant when her granddaughter Layla was one. We met saw them at Aarolyn’s home in Oak Park as they prepared to celebrate Layla’s 11th birthday.

“She is very special. She does a lot for me. We talk on the phone for hours every day, because she is my best friend and I am grateful she is my grandma,” said Layla Dunlap.

“I have survived ten years with a liver transplant and want to survive to be there for my grandchildren,” said McCullough.

McCullough wears a mask because she takes medications that keep her body from rejecting her donor liver, but also suppress her immune system. Some transplant recipients have learned the drugs can weaken the power of vaccines.

Health officials say transplant recipients are just one example of people who might want to continue masking up, even as restrictions are lifted.

“If you are not fully vaccinated yet, you should still be wearing that mask,” said Susan Ringler-Cerniglia, MPH, Washtenaw County Health Department’s Public Information Officer.

“And in addition to that, there are folks who will remain vulnerable to the illness even if they are vaccinated. So think of someone with an underlying condition. Someone who might be immune compromised. That vaccine is just not going to protect them in the same way it does others,” said Ringler-Cerniglia.

According to the state, as of June 17, 60.8 percent of Michiganders have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

The overall message is that we are making great progress in the fight against COVID-19, but for some, the risk remains greater than for others.

“We should not judge people for wearing a mask. Not at all,” said McCullough.

McCullough says health is precious. If you are vaccinated and healthy enough to take off your mask, don’t take it for granted.