It was nice to see a few signs posted in the park now urging people to cover up, keep distance, and get tested. The East Bay Regional Parks have had this type of sign up for months now. The City of Berkeley’s health department made and posted these signs. I was curious to see whether the signs might have had an impact on mask wearing. I was also curious whether Trump’s July 4 anti-mask and anti-distancing theatrics in S. Dakota and DC might have had an influence. I staffed the Chavez Park Conservancy free mask table on Saturday July 4 from 9 am to 1 pm, and again on Sunday July 5 from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m., each time keeping a tally of pedestrians, runners, and bicyclists wearing or not wearing face coverings. I previously posted the same tally for the weekend of June 20-21; see Masks and Numbers.
On Saturday morning in three hours, about 332 people passed the table. As I mentioned in my previous tally, these numbers include some double counting as people were counted coming in and coming out, as well as each time they made a loop, if they did. But some people were also missed if I was handing out masks to one or a few while a glob of others passed by. So the numbers are pretty good but not precise. Of the people who passed, 83 percent were wearing face coverings. That’s two percent more than in my June 20-21 tally. On Sunday afternoon in two hours, about 242 people passed, and of these, 84 percent were wearing face coverings, another slight improvement. No sign of a Trump mask dump here.
In more detail, the percentage of mask wearers was highest among the pedestrians. Of these, 89 per cent wore face coverings on Saturday, and 88 percent on Sunday. That’s no significant change from the 88 percent coverage ratio for pedestrians seen during the June 20-21 weekend. The percentage of runners wearing face coverings on Saturday improved from half in June to 61 percent on Saturday and to 67 percent on Sunday. Similarly, face coverings now appeared on 61 percent of bicyclists both Saturday and Sunday, instead of 53 percent during the late June weekend.
However, the figures might suggest a slight hardening of anti-mask attitudes among a small minority of visitors. On Saturday July 4, of the 29 pedestrians who passed without face covers, 21 or 72 percent accepted a mask from the table. On Sunday, of the 23 who passed uncovered, only 12 or 52 percent took masks. One person said “I’m from Shasta County where we have few cases.” Several said they had masks in their pockets, as if that somehow satisfied the mask mandate. Two said that masks were not necessary outdoors. One woman said her doctor had told her that wearing masks was “extremely unhealthy.” I made it a point not to argue with people.
As also happened during the June 20-21 weekend, a number of people who were already wearing face coverings asked for masks, and I always said yes. Some said the masks they had were old, or dirty, or torn, or uncomfortable; some asked for a spare; others wanted masks for family members at home. These people weren’t the prime demographic the free mask table intended to reach, but if a new mask increased the chances that they or someone close to them would wear face protection, it was time and money well spent.
Counting only masks given to people who wore no face coverings when they approached the table, and put the mask on when received, the time spent at the free mask table increased the percentage of pedestrians wearing face coverings from 89 percent to 97 percent on Saturday and from 88 percent to 94 percent on Sunday. When runners and bicyclists are included, the table raised the percentage of mask wearers from 83 percent to 94 percent on Saturday and from 84 percent to 90 percent on Sunday.
The table also nudged some people to put their masks on as they approached. A couple of people wanted to know whether I was taking names with the clipboard. I assured them I was only doing a count. Still, seeing the table and the clipboard seemed to put some people on their best behavior. However, in one case I saw a man take his mask off when he was 30 yards past the table.
Thanks are due to the generosity of all those who have supported the Chavez Park Conservancy with their donations. Your financial support has made this little public health and park improvement project possible. You have made Chavez Park a modestly but measurably safer and more healthy place to visit.