How the public reacted to mask mandates being lifted

June 9, 2021

Written by Kimberly Monitto

On April 27th, President Joe Biden and The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that masks are no longer required for fully vaccinated people in outdoor settings, one of the first steps on the way back to normalcy after COVID-19. Two weeks later, the CDC added to their previous statement, saying that fully vaccinated Americans can now gather with other individuals without masks indoors and outdoors, even if some in their group are unvaccinated. This news itself comes hot on the heels of mask mandates being lifted in some individual states.

This information was a massive advancement when it came to COVID-19, especially as various states over the last month have been delicately lifting their own mask mandates. 

As Americans begin the slow return to routine, we tracked the public and media reaction to the beginning of the end of masks on social media and the web. Let’s take a look.

Graph showing both public and media interest in the lifting of the mask mandate nationwide

In the month of May, there were just under 3k articles published on the lifting of mask mandates, with a total of 540.2k interactions. 

We see the highest public peaks of interactions on April 29th, May 4th, and May 14th, and the highest media peak on May 13th, the same day the CDC eased mask guidelines.

Graph showing the top articles about lifting the mask mandate in May 2021

The top stories all focused on mandates being lifted, specifically per state. The Blaze had the highest charting story of the month with 57.9k engagements, focusing on the aggravated response to an Arizona school district keeping their mask mandate, even though Governor Doug Ducey had lifted the rule for schools statewide. 

Other top stories included the lifting of mask mandates in Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Florida. Outspoken Congresswoman Lauren Boebert landed on the chart with 8.8k engagements after falsely claiming that since the mask ban has been lifted in Texas, there hasn’t been a single COVID-19 death, which has since been proven to be inaccurate. 

Top Facebook posts about mask mandates

Graph showing the top Facebook posts about the lifting of the mask mandate in May 2021

Facebook posts were a great way to gauge the general public’s reactions to the news. KMOV garnered 15.9k interactions on their post asking if people would continue to wear masks after the mandate was lifted. The comments suggested that a majority of people would not continue to do so. On the other hand, WUSA 9’s post about if food servers should still wear masks was met with the opposite response. Many people felt more comfortable with their servers continuing to wear masks, whether it be because of COVID-19 or sanitary reasons. 

Announcements from state governors about their plans to loosen restrictions were generally met with positive responses, as both the “Like” and “Love” reaction were used much more than the “Sad” or “Angry” reactions. 

Top Tweets about lifting mask mandates

Graph showing the top tweets about the lifting of the mask mandate in May 2021

Actor Misha Collins had the top tweet, a joke about someone wearing a mask with his face on it that hit 7.8k interactions. Twitter user Naira Banks secured the second top tweet with her joke about people still staying six feet away even though the mask mandate has been lifted. 

Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, who has made headlines for her controversial comments and staunch backing of former President Trump, garnered 3.2k engagements on her tweet criticizing an arrest made at a school board meeting. She tweeted, “Taxpayers arrested for not wearing a mask to a school board meeting to demand their children not have to wear a mask to school. Who pays for the school? Who pays for the police? Who pays for the CDC that lifted mask mandates? The very taxpayers arrested. Do you get it yet?” Many of the responses to her were negative and in support of the arrest. 

Other tweets criticized Lauren Boebert for her take on Texas COVID deaths declining after the mask mandate was lifted and an objection to Texas Governor Gregg Abbott for lifting the mask mandate but then signing a bill that outlaws abortion.

Top Instagram posts about the lifting of mask mandates

Graph showing the top Instagram posts about the lifting of the mask mandate in May 2021

With 84.9k total engagements, The New York Times carried the top two spots on the chart. The number one post highlighted not wearing a mask outdoors anymore, and the number two post was about the tri-state area’s complete lift on pandemic restrictions. 

These announcements were met with positive responses from the public, with comments of “finally!” and clapping emojis. 

Though the news of reopening has been highly anticipated, that’s not to say that everyone has been convinced of its worthiness. Some of the public felt indifferent to the news, as seen on the Tennessean’s post that reached 10.8k engagements. 

The general public is obviously elated to be returning to some semblance of normality, but there are outliers who still feel hesitant to completely enjoy the newness of it all. After living in survival mode for a year, it’s not surprising that the idea of going maskless is scary to some. This will be a constant adjustment into an old life we once thought would never return, but a welcomed one at that.

If you’d like to examine public and media reaction to any news event, check out NewsWhip Spike here.

Kimberly Monitto

Kimberly is a Marketing Intern for NewsWhip using her amalgamation of journalistic and marketing skills to uncover new stories with NewsWhip’s technology. She’s particularly interested in global politics, sports, and the intersection of gender and education.

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