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Does How We Talk About Masks Depend On Who's Listening?

Gov. Ron DeSantis with Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez and Jackson Health System CEO Carlos Migoya July 13.
Carl Juste
Miami Herald
Gov. Ron DeSantis with Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez and Jackson Health System CEO Carlos Migoya July 13.

"It's not OK to take off your mask in front of me, thank you very much," declared Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Giménez, in a tone that indicated he had no patience for anyone who might still be waffling on this widely recommended* and not-very-difficult approach to surviving the pandemic. "You might have the virus. As a matter of fact,  might have it." 

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A few hours later, he appeared at Jackson Memorial Hospital next to Gov. Ron DeSantis, who was not wearing a mask. It was July 13, and over the past week, Jackson Health System  had admitted more than 1,200 patients with COVID-19. This time Mayor Giménez offered  some of the same advice from earlier in the day. 

"The message is, please, follow the rules, maintain social distancing, wash your hands, don't touch your face with your hands, and if we all do that, then we can drive this contagion level down, we can stop the rise in the number of people going to the hospital, and then we can get back to normal much faster."  

All good advice. Notice anything missing? Listen to the audio above to hear the difference in the message and the tone when Mayor Giménez was standing next to Gov. DeSantis. (You can also to hear the profanity-laced tirade inside my head when people around me seem uninterested in keeping themselves or others healthy). 

*Within days of that declaration/plea, the Miami-Dade County Commission voted unanimously to make the failure to wear a face covering in public punishable by a $100 fine. In case concern for the well-being of others and an inclination towards self-preservation aren't enough of an impetus, fines for not wearing face coverings vary from $50 to $500 across municipalities and counties around South Florida and the state. 

This is an excerpt from a WLRN Connects episode about how we're navigating the diplomacy, frustration, anxiety and other challenges of convincing people to protect themselves and others.

Copyright 2020 WLRN 91.3 FM. To see more, visit WLRN 91.3 FM.

Alicia Zuckerman began making radio at around seven years old in rural New York State using two cassette recorders and appropriated material from Casey Kasem’s American Top 40. It was a couple more decades before she started getting paid to make radio, as a reporter and producer for NPR’s On the Media.