Under 50s Who Mask Up- 2022


Under 50 is considered a lower-risk age group for COVID-19. Some younger individuals are told they’re being overly cautious if they still wear masks and take other precautions, because they're assumed to not "get as sick" if they get COVID.

At this point in the COVID-19 pandemic when Ontario has dropped its mask mandates and many Torontonians are happily unveiling their faces, I spoke with members of the under 50 group about why they’ve continued to mask up, even in the face of judgment. 

Joshua Best, 43, freelance photojournalist

Joshua has pretty consistently worn a mask throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. He wears it on transit, while grocery shopping and in other stores, and often while photographing raves in Toronto. He also wears a mask outside if he’s in a packed crowd, like at the Pride parade.


Joshua has received comments from strangers about his mask-wearing, including at raves. “Someone came up to me and started asking me about why I was wearing a mask; do I know that masks don’t work at all; that COVID was a hoax.” He’s received comments from strangers on the TTC as well. “I had one guy sitting across from me just asking me why I was still wearing a mask, and I said “well because COVID hasn’t disappeared; it’s still here and this is public transit.”

“Living in Asia for the amount of time that I did, I got used to wearing masks. On public transit; when people were sick at the office; when flu season came up. Everyone just kind of wore their mask, and it was just common. Because it helps. And that’s it. Scientific evidence has proven this time and time again.”

Romilly Belcourt, 35, executive assistant

Throughout the pandemic, Romilly has worn a mask in public indoor spaces that contain more than a few people; this includes shops, cafes, and movie theatres. “I’d say the reason behind it is just because I want the most vulnerable people to be safe.”


Romilly sometimes feels awkward when she’s the only one wearing a mask. She once had someone try to be helpful by telling her that she didn’t have to wear one. She’s also had less COVID-cautious friends gently hint that she’s being too careful.

Romilly has immunocompromised and elderly people in her life who she wants to help protect. She’s thinking of society’s most vulnerable when she wears a mask. “I just feel really strongly that I don’t want to contribute to those people getting sick.”

Norah Self, 11, and Billy Self, 8

Billy and Norah’s family have been serious about COVID precautions from the beginning, especially since they lost a family member to the disease. Both siblings wear their masks at school, in busy outdoor spaces, and in indoor spaces that are not their home. Norah sometimes takes hers off at school because she finds it hot and tiring, but Billy keeps his on for the whole day. “That’s why you have the worst tan line,” Norah informs Billy.


“I don’t feel safe around people who are not wearing masks, and like, more and more people are taking their masks off. So I just feel a need to wear my mask to keep us safe”, Norah says.


“I just want to keep my mask on because I usually get uncomfortable if there’s many people without masks. I just don’t feel right to take my mask off,” Billy says.


“Especially with the new variant,” Norah adds.

Billy and Norah have never experienced negative or judgmental comments for being dedicated mask-wearers. While at the park, Billy and Norah spot friends of theirs. “They also wear masks.”

Evan MacKenzie, 25, and Gabriella Albino, 26, self-employed (co-founders of naviguer.co)

Evan and Gabriella wear masks in indoor public spaces, for many reasons. One reason for their initial caution was Gabriella’s chronic illness, which had taken a severe negative turn when the pandemic started.


“I was going through chronic illness before the pandemic for a few years, and then right as the pandemic hit I got really, really sick. Evan was my full-time caretaker, we had a PSW coming in here regularly. So I was really immunocompromised.”


Another reason was the loss of Evan’s father from an illness, not long before the pandemic. These experiences were traumatic for Gabriella and Evan, and left them with a deeper fear of getting sick and being hospitalized. “The idea of sickness and being in a hospital is really triggering,” Gabby says.


On top of that, critically ill COVID-19 patients are often treated with corticosteroids, which Gabriella can’t receive due to her chronic illness.

“We were really anxious about us getting sick; one of our parents getting sick. And we’ve really struggled with our friends around us getting a lot more relaxed and kind of judging why we weren’t coming out, hanging out with them.”


Gabriella is no longer on immunosuppressants, but has other autoimmune conditions. She and Evan remain fairly cautious, mainly seeing their immediate family and some friends.


The only negative comment the two of them have received about their masking and caution was early on in the pandemic. A condo neighbour of theirs called them "pussies" when they wouldn’t get on the elevator with her, and then she pressed all the buttons for every floor.

Elizabeth Williams, 44, marketing director/occasional VP for startups + fantasy action novelist

Elizabeth has been a consistent mask-wearer throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. She wears masks in grocery stores, malls, coffee shops, on transit, and in all other public indoor spaces. When eating in a restaurant, she wears her mask until the food comes.


“Wearing a mask indoors is a pain in the butt and I don’t enjoy how it feels. But I just look at how much statistically safer it makes me.”


Elizabeth’s children wear their masks every day at school and come home for lunch, since they live nearby. “If they can suck it up and wear one for six hours, five days a week, I can wear one when I’m going in for twenty minutes in a grocery store.”

“I wear one because A) I don’t want the disease, I don’t want to get sick, I don’t want to have the risk of long tail symptoms. And B) because there are so many people in my life who, if they got COVID, it would be a bad go. And I just want to increase the odds that they and other people like them will be safe.”

“I haven’t had COVID yet and I’m hoping to continue my track record.”

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