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'Pandemic shaming' happens whether you're wearing masks or not

Doctors say it's not helpful

NEW ORLEANS — We are learning more about what experts are calling “pandemic shaming,” the act of  shaming someone for either following or not following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I think shaming someone for wearing a mask is just silly,” said Mark Sharp, outside of Robert Fresh Market on St. Claude.

Masks are recommended by the CDC when social distancing is not possible. Some wear them all the time, others just at the store and some not at all. The mix in approaches is leading to frustration both on social media and in person.

“A lot of times I am in different grocery stores and you hear people talking -- you know -- just under their breath saying ‘I can’t believe people are doing this. This is ridiculous,’ it’s not ridiculous,” said Slidell resident Gary Mills.  

In addition to being shamed for following the rules, others say they are being shamed for breaking the rules, even by accident.

Kim Bearden said that she was a grocery store last week and went the wrong direction down the aisle. 

“A man pointed to the arrow on the ground and said to me, ‘can’t you read?'” Bearden recalled. “I genuinely did not know there were directions down the aisle.”

Alison McCallum says she lives in a building with an elderly population and that most of the residents are wearing masks, however, “you can almost feel the frustration on their faces and through their eyes when they see someone who is not wearing a mask,” McCallum said.

We asked Dr. Rick Costa, clinical psychologist with LSU Health, if pandemic shaming is effective.

“In the big picture -- the answer is going to be no,” Costa said. “It’s really not going to be very effective. Shame is a very primitive feeling and when that is stirred up it really can feel very traumatic. It can really cut to the core and be very painful.”

Costa says there is a better approach.

“Get your feelings in check, take care of you and comfort folks from a place of compassion and love and as opposed to judgement and hatred,” Costa said.

McCallum does find it frustrating that others aren’t taking the same precautions she is but isn’t reaching for anger.

“I am trying to remain positive and just be a good example and just keep all the emotion in check,” McCallum said.

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