Indeed, our impromptu field study served as a reminder that some types are worth avoiding in public even if they've got a facial covering on their person — if not always over their nose and mouth.
Here's our top ten countdown of people in Denver that definitely inspire lots of social distancing:
10. Masked men with giant beards
It's possible for bearded men — even ones who look like they're on the way to audition for a Duck Dynasty reboot — to wear masks in a way that protects them and others. But far too many of the bearded folks we encountered used their huge wafts of facial hair as an excuse to barely affix their masks, leaving them flapping ineffectually. And that won't make anyone breathe easily.
9. People wearing problematic state-flag masks
By now, there's no doubt that the mask-wearing culture in some states (like Colorado) is stronger than it is in others — Texas, for instance. For this reason, anyone sporting a mask that salutes such a spot on the map should be deemed immediately suspect. As exhibit A, we offer Senator Ted Cruz.
Plenty of cloth masks boast ties at the top and bottom, and they both need to be tightened for the covering to be effective. But the lower tie is all too often neglected, as was the case with a woman who practically ran into us at a Costco. Run away! Run away!
7. People wearing gaiters
Early on, the use of gaiters as masks was widely accepted. But even though subsequent studies (including this one from Duke) have suggested that wearing a gaiter could actually be more harmful than skipping a mask entirely, lots of folks around Denver still do it. And one shopper we saw, whose camo-style gaiter was worn below his nose, doubled our displeasure.
6. People wearing bandannas
The same Duke study argues that bandannas worn loose, with a triangle of fabric hanging over the wearer's chin, is just as bad as a gaiter when it comes to coronavirus safety. But there's no shortage of Denver dudes, in particular, who wrongly think otherwise.
5. People wearing their mask below their nose
Seriously, this has been going on for a year now. Shouldn't we have figured out that the whole point of wearing a mask is to keep both the nose and mouth covered?
It's a mask, not a gag; people can still hear you on the phone when you speak through it. But every day in Denver (and on multiple times during our consumer journey yesterday), you'll see folks walking around and chattering with their mask on their chin.
3. People who think carrying a cup means they don't have to raise their mask
The idea is to lower the mask to take a drink, then lift it again. But over time, far too many people have concluded that holding a beverage is essentially a license to leave their masks off until the cup is empty. Pro tip: It's not.
2. People wearing only a face shield
Some individuals have medical reasons why they can't wear a standard facial covering. But far more do so as a political statement — and unfortunately, it's impossible to tell one from the other. For example, we suspect a doctor had nothing to do with the decision of a guy at the ARC thrift store in Arapahoe County who was not only wearing a face shield without a mask, but also had a persistent cough.
1. People with American flag masks
Yes, some of the Coloradans who wear American flag masks may be doing so to send the message that protecting others around them is patriotic, and not because they think the virus is an economy-killing hoax and the 2020 presidential election was rigged. But the wisest course of action is to give them a very wide berth anyway.