New York City Mayor Eric Adams is calling for shop owners to have customers remove their masks before entering their stores as a means of preventing shoplifting and robberies.
“We are putting out a clear call to all of our shops: Do not allow people to enter the store without taking off their face mask. And then once they’re inside, they can continue to wear it if they so desire to do so,” Adams said on Monday during an interview on the radio station 1010 WINS.
The plan was introduced as a way to address a surge in shoplifting at New York City bodegas, grocery stores and some high-end stores. Adams said that people often wear masks not because they’re fearful of the COVID-19 pandemic but rather because they fear the police “catching them for their deeds.”
The move directly counters COVID-19 safety protocols that encourage people to wear masks in enclosed public spaces. Many people criticized Adams’ decision and comments, emphasizing that asking customers to remove their masks upon entry will place disabled and immunocompromised people at risk of contracting COVID-19.
“And this ‘you can put your mask back on later’ sop does not save the policy. It is still unlawful disability discrimination to require exposure to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes covid, as a condition of accessing a public store,” said a tweet by Matthew Cortland, a senior fellow at the progressive think tank Data for Progress who specializes in disability and health care issues.
Others questioned Adams’ implication that mask wearers are potential robbers, adding that the decision to have shops require customers to remove their masks upon entry won’t prevent shoplifting and robberies from occurring.
“The claim by the NYC Mayor that masks encourage crime and make the city less safe are baseless. The truth is the opposite: By slowing the spread of COVID-19, masks keep our communities safe,” Lucky Tran, an expert in public health and communication, said in a tweet.
Adams’ office did not respond to HuffPost’s request for comment about the recent criticism.
The decision follows nearly a month after Adams lifted the mask mandate in medical settings, which sparked a similar outcry from disabled and immunocompromised New Yorkers. Despite ongoing high community transmission rates of the virus throughout the country, President Joe Biden declared earlier this year that the nation’s COVID-19 public health emergency designation will come to an end in May.