CHICAGO — For Americans whose bare faces had scarcely been seen in public for a year, there were suddenly options. Would they leave the mask behind for a jog? What about the coffee shop? What about the neighbor’s house? The office?
A sudden loosening this week of federal health guidance on masks has handed Americans a new calculation to make. And it isn’t just one calculation, but a maze of many. As people walked through their days, hour by hour, errand by errand, some wondered at every new doorway: Mask or no mask?
When Stevi Stephens was 5 years old, her grandmother bent down for a hug, and Stephens wondered if stepping on her foot would make her stop.
As a baby, her mother told her, Stephens cried when anyone held her; later, as a married woman, she used to get up and change sides of the bed multiple times each night when her husband would scoot over in his sleep to put an arm around her. “He was like a heat-seeking missile,” she says.